"Stay Away!" - Nirvana
It's a trip that our babysitter has been planning for months: The Statue of Liberty.
A young woman from Ecuador, she is returning home after being in the United States for two years. On her bucket list, but not crossed off until this past weekend, was a visit to Liberty Island, complete with a tour of the statue's crown.
As almost every student from civics class remembers, mounted on the statue's pedestal is a plaque with the text of "The New Colossus," the now-famous poem by Emma Lazarus, who celebrated immigrants and dubbed the statue "mother of exiles."
But patriotic poetry and cold copper statues are very different from the thousands of flesh-and-blood migrants who have arrived in New York City over the last year, stretching the city's resources to their limit.
Taking a blue pencil to Lazarus' words, Mayor Eric Adams wants to distribute flyers to discourage migrants from coming to New York, saying, "Please consider another city as you make your decision about where to settle in the U.S."
It's not quite poetry, and it's not clear what American city the mayor has in mind. Topeka? Dubuque?
While New York City can be difficult and maddening, it also has been the epicenter of opportunity for 400 years, with tens of thousands of success stories. The mayor's flyer feels like a white flag.
It's certainly not City Hall's fault that close to 100,000 migrants have recently flocked to New York, and it's not up to City Hall to come up with a federal solution to an international problem. But it feels almost cowardly and against the city's grain to be showing people the exit door and telling them they have to leave shelter after two months.
While immigration is surging in the United States, it's not unprecedented. The percentage of immigrants coming here was even higher from 1870 to 1910, and it was a wave that the country rode as it soared through most of the 20th century. More than 12 million people were screened at Ellis Island, and only 2% of them were rejected. Somehow, we all survived.
If we want the statue to be more than a place for sightseers to make a cool Instagram post, we need to figure out a way to make immigration work, both locally and nationally. Otherwise, you can explain everything to our babysitter.