"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-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
I know. You probably think these are the words from a billboard along I-20, in DeKalb County -- erected by the Rockdale Board of Commissioners in a 2-1 vote. Nope. Not even close. These words are, of course, from the famous poem by Emma Lazarus and they are inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.
America has always been a beacon for the oppressed and a land of opportunity. We, the people, are made up of many peoples, from all around the globe. We are the greatest nation on Earth. We are the greatest nation in the history of mankind. We are the "last best hope for freedom." Ronald Reagan said so.
We have always welcomed law-abiding, hard-working people to come and be a part of us.
Aha! Take a longer look at the previous sentence. There are a couple of points of emphasis. OK, three. (If you are still mad about the billboard thing, get over it. You know it was funny.) The one in the middle is "hard-working." The other two are "law-abiding" and "part of us." Stay with me now.
We have us a situation in this state -- and in this nation. We are overrun with illegal immigrants from south of the border. I don't blame anyone for coming to this country to seek a better life, and I will concede the hard-working part for most of those folks that I have met.
The "law-abiding" part is a problem, however -- as is the "part of us," proposition. Let's address the latter first. Teddy Roosevelt, one of the greatest Americans who ever lived, said in 1915, "There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism ... The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities ... The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else."
Many -- not all, but way too many -- of the more recent immigrants to this country do not seem to want to learn our language and accept our culture. If that continues we will, as Roosevelt predicted, become a "tangle of squabbling nationalities." If folks want to come here legally, live among us and embrace our culture -- fine. If not, they may stay home and continue to embrace their own culture. No problems.
Now for the illegal part. Our representatives have long recognized that people from all over the world will always want to come to this great nation. They have also realized that, because of our limited resources and concern for national security, there needs to be a process by which those immigrants can be accounted for and documented. Congress established a means to monitor the aliens who wanted to come here -- and they established laws dealing with those who ignored the process.
The federal government, over time, lost the ability -- or the will -- to enforce those laws and now we have upward of 10 million illegal immigrants in this nation. The key word there is illegal. Since the federal government is not aggressively enforcing the laws designed to protect our legal residents and our resources, our representatives followed the lead of Arizona and several other states and passed our own law. But the ACLU has filed a suit against the law and now an activist federal judge, Thomas Thrash, has superseded the will of the people and declared parts of that law unconstitutional. A person commits a crime, but has no identification -- too bad. Local authorities cannot check his or her immigration status. That would be profiling. Can't do that.
And if a person, or group of people, is found to be aiding and abetting people to come into this state illegally while committing other crimes -- too bad. No additional penalties.
And so the beat goes on. And the beat goes on.
Once again we are upholding the rights of criminals at the expense of law-abiding people. How long can this go on? How long can we remain a strong and vibrant nation if those we elect to represent us refuse to uphold the rule of law upon which our society is built?
Gov. Nathan Deal has vowed to appeal the decision and Judge Thrash has defended his ruling by saying that the law, if allowed to stand, would create a "climate of hostility, fear, mistrust and insecurity that all illegal aliens will leave Georgia."
"All illegal aliens will leave Georgia." Wasn't that sort of the point?
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and
author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.