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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!

This poem, written by Emma Lazarus—inscribed on the Statue of Liberty—welcomed the homeless, the misplaced and the persecuted people of the world to the land of liberty and freedom. A beacon, promising a safe haven, the arm of Liberty held the lantern high for all to see, signaling hope for those who didn’t know an existence free of hunger, persecution and suppression.

The statue represented the highest ideals the American people had come to embrace: liberty and justice for all, the unconditional right to pursue happiness and prosper without regard to one’s birthplace. Decades ago, many immigrants crossed the border into our country; many thrived and contributed to what has made this country great and unique.

Until recently, that is.

Today, a segment of our population doesn’t uphold the high standards of the statue’s past. I don’t see the lamp shinning on the masses. The arm of liberty has grown weary of those who come to live a decent life, the same desires that drove their predecessors; the light that promised democracy and freedom has dimmed.

Today’s huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, do not see the welcoming lamp; instead, they see high fences and barbed wire. Scampering across the desert like hunted rabbits, those who aren’t murdered are caught, held in detention, incarcerated and treated like criminals. loaded like cattle into buses or airplanes and returned back to the conditions they are fleeing. The country in which they now seek asylum has created a division of wealth and poverty by imposing the imperialistic rationale and political ideology that keeps a large majority of the world in bondage—a country that continues to make war on fabricated enemies, posing as a liberator to the very people they continue to oppress.

Dear friends, the question we should be asking ourselves is: How did we go from being the fiercest supporters of freedom to becoming the most malicious advocates of bondage and suffering? Who has the courage to admit the truth of America’s decay and acknowledge the pestilence that drips from the rotting teeth of greed and powerful corporations?

Immigration is not the source of our ills, my friends, neither is foreign languages or strange cultures. The answer lies deep within the structure that advocates consumerism as the new reality. Values, blindly embraced by the majority, no longer provide room for the homeless immigrant who is not able to prove his worthiness: now a requirement to set foot in the land of milk and honey.  They are left to fend for themselves, smothering in their own poverty, as we continue to believe in our own importance, measured by the size of our income or the color of our skin; standards supported and put in place by the ideology of globalization that passes for virtue and progress.

Where is the illusionist that teaches the new morality that seduces more and more consumers by the day?  Don’t we have a right to question the obstacles placed in front of the immigrant in her quest for sanctuary and compassion? Why do “leaders” of the free world continue to ignore the cries of those who speak out against tyranny and injustice?  Who refuses to comfort those who knock on locked doors in their hour of need; those whose only crime has been to be born into poverty; those who are not reaching out for charity or handouts but for compassion and a chance to prove their worth?

If we look away today, are we not abandoning hope for tomorrow’s world, abandoning the values we have taught our children? Are we willing to live in blissful ignorance, detached from the voices crying out from the darkness? Is America content living a comfortable existence behind a mask that conceals a false reality?

Or is our true nature one of spirituality and goodness, with a desire to abolish all suffering and live together in peace?

Yes or no? The answer is in your hands, my friends.

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