Frierson: Whatever happened to welcoming huddled masses?

07/25/2014 12:00 AM

07/24/2014 5:58 PM

I can’t erase these three images from my mind:

A busload of happy children waving at adults who are standing on the side of a highway. The children are unaware that the adults are there to make immigrant children feel unwelcome. The adults are embarrassed to learn that the bus is transporting American children to a Y camp.

A front-page headline expressing relief that none of those people will be temporarily housed in South Carolina. A photo of Gov. Nikki Haley, the daughter of immigrants, accompanies the article.

A scorched wheat field, littered with fragments: burnt clothing, a blackened section of a plane’s wing. Things out of order: an empty wallet, open suitcases with clothing strewn about randomly. Disgusting smells: the stench of decaying bodies. Eighty of the dead are children. This is the aftermath of Malaysian flight 17.

In the first image, immigrant children were the intended recipients of hatred, as evidenced by protest signs telling them to go back to Mexico. The fact that Mexico is not the country of origin for many of them did not matter.

Has America forgotten these words from Emma Lazarus’ famous poem?

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!

Are these words applicable only to certain people?

Why are the children of immigrants, perhaps after changing their last names and elevating their social, economic and political status, so unwilling to show compassion to the new immigrants?

Why do we model good behavior before our children, but if a child’s skin is golden brown and the child’s hair is dark, wavy and shiny, we shout, “We don’t want you here; go back to Mexico”?

Why do we express outrage about the fate of Malaysian flight 17, demanding respect for the removal of human remains, yet have virtually no respect for the broken lives of living, breathing, immigrant children?

I do not claim that solutions are simple, but those of us who dare sing, “Oh, how I love Jesus” on Sunday mornings need to let our little lights shine all day long, Monday through Saturday.

Beverly Diane Frierson


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