Xenophobia in the Melting Pot (A Photo Essay)

 all photos © Dave Anderson 2018

all photos © Dave Anderson 2018

I had the chance to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Islands last week, and wanted to share some pictures and impressions…

 Huddled masses yearning for a good picture of Manhattan, as the boat leaves

Huddled masses yearning for a good picture of Manhattan, as the boat leaves

The statue was called “Liberty Enlightening the World (La Liberté éclairant le monde)” by its French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. But to immigrants who sailed into New York harbor, the message they got from the statue was “Welcome.”

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Emma Lazarus’s famous poem with “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” was written before the Liberty’s completion in 1883, and added as a feature inside the statue in 1903. The poem captured the public’s imagination.

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The New Colossus said, don’t send me your best, send me your least impressive people, and we will welcome them.


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Next our boat landed at the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration. Covering America’s immigration history, it also tells our anti-immigrant story…

Here are xenophobic writings and visuals, mainly from the 1920s, in the Museum.

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We’ve reached a new time of pushback on immigration, greater than at any time since the 1920s. We should ask: what do people have to gain by making us afraid of outsiders? Are the fears grounded in reason? Is there also a cost to turning people away?

The immigrants of today are like those of the past in many ways: they are disparaged, they are exploited as a political issue, yet in the end they will succeed as a group and be accepted.

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As my boat left Ellis Island, a rainbow cracked through. At a time when the light seems to be straining against darkness — around us and inside of us — it was nice to feel a ray of hope.

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