Guest column: Should we really cancel the Statue of Liberty?

The Daily Ardmoreite
Tony Choate

While immigration is a serious and complicated issue in America, the fact that millions of people would like to come to America to earn their part of the American dream is an opportunity, not a problem.   

For generations, the Statue of Liberty stood as a symbol of liberty and the possibilities that come with being an American.

Many of the people of my generation remember learning this part of the inscription on that statue.

"Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"  

We learned that inscription was an expression of how Americans should relate to the rest of the world, because we have something unique and worthwhile to offer. Many Americans continue to believe that.

People around the world still look to that statue as a symbol of hope. America is still seen by people in nations around the world as a place promising unequaled levels of political freedom and economic opportunity.

In economic terms, America has a unique product of high value. People outside our borders are desperately seeking the opportunity to work and live in America.

The fact that millions of people would like to become American citizens, and will go to great lengths to accomplish that, is a great economic asset to our nation.

Nevertheless, policy makers in Washington have failed for decades to develop policy to ensure America reaps the benefit.

Current immigration policy in this America is among the most restrictive among the nations of the modern world.

There is no doubt that some bad people cross our borders to do bad things, but all the evidence shows that to be an extremely small minority of the people who cross our borders to come to America.

Most are coming to America seeking a better life for themselves and their family in the form of economic opportunity.

However, it is also important to consider those “huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” also known as refugees.

Problems that loom large for some in America pale in comparison to the violence, poverty and political oppression refugees flee as they set their sights on reaching America.

Those hurting and desperate human beings see us as their only hope.

This week the George W. Bush Presidential Center issued a policy recommendation regarding immigration.

In part, it stated, “Congress must undertake a top-to-bottom overhaul of our immigration system.”

The recommendation added, “Robust border security must be combined with a robust legal immigration system; we can be a lawful society and a welcoming one at the same time.” 

Also this week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott made an emotional announcement that the state of Texas is committed to building even more border wall to “protect the citizens of Texas.”

While common sense and experience has taught us a wall that can be cut through, climbed over or tunneled under is not totally effective, the relative effectiveness of a wall should not be the focus of the debate.

In America, we are debating whether the Statue of Liberty should continue to define our relationship with the world, or if our lamp of liberty should be replaced with a wall of exclusion.

To fully embrace the wall, we must cancel the Statue of Liberty.

Personally, I am not in favor of that kind of cancel culture.

 — Tony Choate has lived in the Ardmore area for more than 50 years. He earned his master's degree in political science from Purdue University after earning a bachelor's degree in legal studies from East Central University. He worked for several years as an adjunct instructor for Murray State College, teaching courses in American history and American government and politics.