The economic case for the ‘wretched refuse’

World-wide welcome: America is built on immigrants of all economic backgrounds, notes LIMBA's Ernie Fazio.

“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!”

These are the closing lines of “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus, cast on a bronze plaque inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Recently, a Trump administration spokesman suggested a rewrite – a new criteria for entrance into the same country that the young Emma spoke about in her poem.

They are only willing to accept the well-educated immigrants with money enough to sustain themselves.

If this had been the mentality when the Grecos (my mother’s family) and the Fazios (my father’s family) came to America, my story would be different. My family would not be here at all.

They had little more than bus fare when they landed. What they did have was a belief in this country and a love and loyalty to America.

Ernie Fazio: Putting his money on the dirt-poor.

Let’s consider the logic of the new criteria. If you only had the opportunity to allow 1,000 people into the country and you could choose between 1,000 well-heeled people or 1,000 dirt-poor people, I’d recommend the latter.

The argument that I want you to consider is this: The well-heeled will never serve in the military, they will never serve as policemen, they will never serve as firefighters, and they will never serve as sanitation workers.

They are likely to get a good job and live a good life and never be a “charge of the state,” but it is doubtful they will ever express the loyalty to this country that my immigrant forbearers felt and spoke about.

Of those 1,000 well-heeled, a statistical percentage will achieve great heights and employ many people. On the other hand, a statistical percentage will lose all their money and will become a charge of the state. Misfortune is as random in one group as it is in another.

In the end, they are just as likely to leave America for their country of origin, with all of their winnings, since never really needed America in the first place.

The “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” will succeed in the same percentages as the privileged class, and their loyalties will not be questioned. My guess is that because of their origins, they will fight like hell to be successful, as they always have in the past.

This selfish, shallow creed we are witnessing today speaks to a paucity of compassion as much as it flies in the face of logic.

Ernie Fazio is chairman of Long Island Metro Business Action, a Ronkonkoma-based member organization focused on Island-wide socioeconomic development.  

1 Comment on "The economic case for the ‘wretched refuse’"

  1. As with much of Ernie’s conversations, right on!

    I’ve always considered us a nation of mongrels, growing and learning from the societies that come to achieve “The American Dream” that enriches them — and us.

    Ernie’s “but it is doubtful they will ever express the loyalty to this country that my immigrant for[e]bearers felt and spoke about” is a reason to pay attention to Ms. Lazarus’s words, cast in metal.

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