Much of the debate about immigration policy is driven by myth rather than reality. The most egregious of these myths surround the Statue of Liberty. And they play a significant role in the war on immigration enforcement being waged by the open borders lobby.
On Tuesday evening, March 7, 2017, the National Park Service briefly turned out the lights on Lady Liberty in order to replace faulty electrical equipment. The next morning the mainstream media was filled with stories claiming that the power outage was symbolic. CNN proclaimed “Statue of Liberty Goes Dark, Lights Up – and the Symbolism Is Not Lost.” It also cited the poem on the base of the statue as, “a clear argument against President Donald Trump’s travel ban and immigration crackdowns.”
Meanwhile, the Washington Post trumpeted “The Statue of Liberty Went Dark Overnight and the Timing Was Just ‘Too Perfect,’”, claiming that “Lady Liberty was… protesting President Trump generally and, more specifically, his travel ban just a day after he signed the revised executive order limiting entry to the United States from six Muslim-majority countries.”
But these protests are based on a flawed argument. The Statue of Liberty has nothing to do with immigration. In fact, she was a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States, to commemorate the centennial of American independence and the influence of the founding fathers on French revolutionary ideals. Her full name, Liberty Enlightening the World more accurately reflects her true purpose, championing the worldwide diffusion of the republican form of government. She is, metaphorically speaking, a symbol of liberty as an influential emigrant – an encouragement to those who would seek democracy at home, not those seeking a new homeland.
She became entwined with immigration in the popular imagination due to her physical proximity to Ellis Island and a poem affixed to her base. That sonnet, called The New Colossus, was written by Emma Lazarus, a wealthy socialist poet popular in early 1900’s New York literary circles, and auctioned off as part of the campaign to raise funds for the pedestal on which the statue was erected. Nevertheless, open borders advocates have imbued it with the same significance as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. They are mistaken. The United States has always been welcoming to newcomers. But liberty under the rule of law has always been our core principle – not immigration.
Lazarus’ poem implies that immigration is what made America great. Yet, in reality, it has always been American greatness that attracted immigrants. Auguste Bartholdi understood this. That’s why he built Liberty Enlightening the World and gave her to the United States. If Lady Liberty was protesting anything when her lights went out, it was probably the way in which her history has been distorted not President Trump’s efforts to preserve ordered liberty in the face of terror.