by Henry Stillwell
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 tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door
The poem ‘New Colossus’ by Emma Lazarus, which is engraved on the Statue of Liberty, bears these words. Images of countless refugees in survival desperation have shocked the world of late.
However, the ‘Land of the Free’ has not pledged any amount of refugee resettlement in the face of the greatest refugee crisis since WWII.
Many things have to happen before the world can expect the refugee crisis to end. First and foremost, civil wars in Syria, Eritrea, and Libya have created situations where families are faced with two choices; flee to the West, or die in your homeland. The West needs to do its part in arranging peace talks, and attempting to bring an end to these crippling wars. Instead of picking sides and supplying weapons, we need to send diplomatic negotiators with peace as the only objective. Secondly, situations of extreme poverty must be alleviated. Another major reason for the current refugee crisis is extreme poverty, lack of access to food and clean water. Billions of people in Africa, Asia, and in the Middle East live on less than two dollars a day. When people who have no money, they face a paucity of clean water; attempt to travel to wealthier nations is often the only option. The West needs to do a better job of leveling the playing field for human species. No human deserves to live without clean water. These should be the long-term goals of wealthy nations, namely, United States in the face of such atrocities.
In terms of the immediate response, the West must begin to admit more refugees. The United Kingdom pledged to take in 10,000, a drop in the bucket of an estimated 2,000,000 people who have been displaced in Syria, Eritrea and Libya. Clearly, nobody in the European Union has been willing to step up and make commitments based on helping the most refugees possible, as opposed to commitments that make sense financially and politically. However, I feel the country that can and should do the most is the United States. Where would the United States be if we had not taken in swathes of immigrants during the Irish potato famine? The United States is historically a nation of immigrants, a melting pot. The United States is supposed to be the nation where people can seek refuge, and be afforded some basic civil rights. How can the United States be so hypocritical when these are values that every American claims to uphold? These values are enshrined and engraved in our most sacred institutions. They are believed to be the most revered symbols.
Give me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free?
… Here they are!