In 1882, Congress enacted new immigration laws that required states to follow a more uniform vetting process so all immigrants had a flat playing field, independent of what port they arrived at. One of the new laws required that immigrants be able to take care of themselves and not become a public charge. One has to believe this law did not fall from the sky as the country was still assimilating the slaves freed at the end of the Civil War. Both the War and slave assimilation were a burden to the US budget so not accepting immigrants who weren’t self sufficient makes sense for the time.
While Emma Lazarus’s poem about immigration, written in 1883, may be timeless, any euphoria from reading or listening to the words had its limitations in 1883 and other times in our history since then. Immigration laws continue to change as Congress sees the need. While some may see a law as anti-immigration, it still is the law and laws are the glue that keeps our country great.
Editor’s Note: The above Letter to the Editor is in response to the April Editorial, A Welcoming Lady.