Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Statue of Liberty Weeps: Mistreatment of Asylum Seekers In America

In 1883, Emma Lazarus wrote "The New Colossus" for an auction that was to raise money for "In Aid of the Bartholdi Pedestal Fund". As she wrote:
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!"

It was in 1903, sixteen years after Emma Lazarus' death, that the inscription was engraved on a plaque on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Those words have become ingrained upon the psyche of what defines America. A place of asylum, where the "wretched refuse" can find a home.

That is until the Bush Administration took over.

I was very upset to read in a story in the February 9, 2005, edition of the Washington Post, that asylum seekers are often mistreated by the very government that they are seeking asylum in, the United States of America.

As was reported:
As refugees wait in jails and jaillike facilities nationwide, they sometimes have been strip-searched, shackled, handcuffed in their cells or placed in isolation as part of an ordeal so harsh that some give up and return home.

For those who stay, the psychological damage from confinement can be lasting, wrote Craig Haney, a psychologist who co-wrote the section of the study on detention. "Most people experience incarceration as painful and even traumatic," he said. "It is certainly not the case that everyone who is incarcerated is disabled or psychologically harmed by it. . . . But few people end the experience unchanged by it."

Have we forgotten about even the Pilgrims? As the first President Bush has stated:
And it was here to Leiden that the Pilgrims came to escape persecution -- to live, work, and worship in peace. In the shadow of Pieterskerk, they found the freedom to witness God openly and without fear. And here, under the ancient stones of the Pieterskerk, the body of John Robinson, the Pilgrims' spiritual leader, was laid to rest.

And it was from this place the Pilgrims set their course for a New World. In their search for liberty, they took with them lessons learned here of freedom and tolerance.

I weep for Lady Liberty. I weep for America the land of opportunity. The land where the tired, the hungry and homeless, can now be detained and shackled.

Senator Kerry, Lady Liberty is calling for you. America needs you to keep the door open to the Presidency and the door to asylum seekers open to America.



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