One thing that really did make America great (a return to which could make us great again) was our uniquely welcoming disposition to immigrants from all corners of the Earth.
Not perfectly welcoming, not a utopian brotherhood of all singing kumbaya, but UNIQUE relative to the community of nations globally. To be an “Other” has never been as strange or dangerous in America as elsewhere in the world.
Our relatively free immigration policy was a great strength for most of the history of these United States. It encouraged, not the wealthy and well-born (who were often doing fine in their home countries), but the cleverest, the most tenacious, the most determined, to brave the difficulties of a new country, new communities, new careers, to make for themselves something better.
It is that DNA to make something better that was infused in American society by our immigrant forebears. Our great prosperity and freedoms in the US is the inheritance of that heritage we enjoy today and our children’s future will be better or worse based on how we decide to treat immigrants now.
Will we follow the good example of history and open our communities to those who need our help and shelter? Or will we impoverish our material and moral selves by treating the foreigner not as a neighbor, but with insults and racism and fear.
We are not a country that was built on border walls, travel papers, and golden tickets to only “the best and the brightest”… We were a country built on this:
“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “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!””
~ Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus (1883)