Engraved at the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, a stirring poem by American poet Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus,” eloquently captures the essence of compassion and virtue that has defined the American spirit. This renowned excerpt — “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” — has welcomed thousands of immigrants as they journeyed from distant lands to the embrace of America’s shores.
Historically, the United States has stood as a beacon of prosperity and opportunity, its streets gleaming with proverbial gold. Yet, today, this vision of the American dream has become clouded. Government and powerful media outlets have fed a distorted interpretation of it, one that threatens to unravel the very fabric of our great nation.
My heart is heavy with empathy for the relentless struggles faced by every migrant.
Americans are privileged to reside in a land brimming with opportunity, safeguarded by justice and anchored by inalienable rights. Tragically, this sanctuary is a rarity in a world where chaos and violence often reign unchecked.
Just beyond our southern border, a daily tempest of turmoil unfolds. Innocent lives are taken without redress, and communities are ravaged by mass killings, drug wars, violence and unspeakable brutality. The dream of a secure and comfortable life becomes a distant mirage, obscured by a reality where safety and serenity are luxuries that remain, for many, elusive and unattainable. This impels tens of thousands of migrants every year to make the perilous journey to the United States in search of a better life.
This brings us to New York City, a sanctuary city where the migrant crisis has reached critical mass. New York state boasts an unimpressive 88 immigration judges. With nearly 90,000 migrants coming to New York City, that’s a little more than 1,000 migrants per judge. The facts of each case are distinct, and the proceedings are often long and drawn-out. What exacerbates the situation further is the extensive time required to decide asylum cases, often taking years. Migrants with pending cases aren’t always confined to one location; many skip their hearing dates, which are frequently spaced months apart, and move elsewhere. In fact, data from the Department of Justice shows that nearly half of all migrants skip their immigration hearings. Given that they already have up to a year to apply, this long process can become even more protracted.
We must remember that these are people whose whereabouts are unknown, whose history is a mystery to us and who are becoming dispersed throughout the United States. And, of course, this alarming figure assumes that they are even provided with a court date to start.
In 2021, there were nearly 600,000 migrants who were released into the United States without such a date.
These numbers are alarming, and the stories of many of these migrants tragic. This requires us to confront a very somber truth: America, despite its might and moral compass, cannot be the savior to all. A delicate balance must be struck between our noble intentions and the realistic capabilities of our nation to ensure the welfare of the greatest number of people.
Though I empathize with the migrants’ plight, I consider the reports of their actions disturbing. There are reports circulating about the migrants demanding treatment that far exceeds what we routinely provide to our own needy American citizens, and of others expressing unhappiness with being here. Many of the migrants have been housed in four- and five-star hotels, provided with three meals per day and granted access to free health care — all at the taxpayers’ expense. If we must help them, then we should, but to “help” them and to “indulge” in their every need are two vastly different actions. The old saying, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too,” has clearly been lost on New York’s leaders. It’s a situation that calls into question the values of gratitude and humility.
Why are our own underprivileged not embraced with open arms, accommodated in luxurious hotels, nourished with fine meals and provided top-tier health care? Why, instead, are they relegated to grim, perilous shelters, trapped in an existence with scant prospects for improvement?
Ironically, the repercussions of certain policies are now dawning upon those who once championed them. Before, the problems seemed distant and abstract. It was simple enough to chide states like Texas for their perceived inhumanity and demand more respectful treatment for migrants. Yet now, as the tangible realities of an open-border policy unfold on their own doorsteps, the consequences are becoming unavoidably clear.
America is a place where individuals from all walks of life can pursue success and lay the foundation for prosperity that endures through generations. Every man, woman and child who sets foot on our cherished soil deserves a chance to partake in this promise. However, we must recognize the finite nature of our resources and the importance of prioritizing those who have devoted their lives to nurturing and sustaining our nation.
We must first ensure that opportunities are extended to Americans, attending to their needs and potential. Only after fulfilling our commitment to those who call this land “home” can we begin to direct our resources and energies toward assisting those who seek our shores from foreign lands.
Elected officials should recognize that their primary duty is to represent those who have entrusted them with their votes — American citizens. If they wish to fulfill the vision that propelled them into office, they must first honor and prioritize the needs and aspirations of the people who voted for them.