You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses... Also Your Abused, Your Battered, Your Frightened

"The Obama administration has opened the way for foreign women who are victims of severe domestic beatings and sexual abuse to receive asylum in the United States." So began a New York Times article by Julia Preston. And it continues, "The action reverses a Bush administration stance..." Of course, it does.

The story of the particular women who is the instrument of the change is horrendous. According to legal affidavits filed in her behalf, her common-law husband "repeatedly raped her at gunpoint, held her captive, stole from her and at one point tried to burn her alive when he learned she was pregnant."

Of course, we should let her in.

And also all the other "wretched refuse"--these are Emma Lazarus' words, too--who need to escape from the "teeming shores" of their birth. This woman was Mexican, and no doubt there are social service indices of how badly women are treated in other countries. Many women, many countries. And the precarious lives of many children who, among other miserable destinies, face being dragooned into armies of the young led by lunatics. But more normal and routine cruelties await them in many parts of the world, alas, without hope and without relief. Then, there are the gays of both sexes for whom constant humiliation is the best they can expect. The worst is easy to imagine: prison, for example, and torture and ultimately execution by stoning with the official stoners duly represented on the U.N. Human Rights Council. Of course! This hardly exhausts those others for whom coming to America would also change their lives.

At a conference a few years ago in and about Germany I sat next to a social welfare minister, a Social Democratic minister, of one of the German states. He reported to me that, since the huge Muslim immigration, cruelty to children had shot up maybe 100%. And abuse of women... well, I don't recall precisely. But it was way up there. And what do you think is happening in Great Britain and Belgium?

An Indian court has just struck down a law that criminalized homosexual sex dating way back to British rule. But what do you think is happening in Pakistan? Or in Saudi Arabia? I leave Iran out.

The fact is that we have millions of "illegals"--I'm told that this is not the favored word in Cambridge--and many of them are being arrested and then deported. Their children are harassed, even in schools and first aid clinics. Adults cannot now get work. Because there is little work to be had. And, so for what work there is, wages go lower... and lower. The money sent abroad can go no more. And this is because there is none.

I have no recipe for the "homeless, tempest tossed" drawn here illegally by the "lamp beside the golden door." None of us has a recipe for this now endemic issue, although I suspect that if we were self-consciously a bit more of a "melting pot" instead of a false multi-cultural society we would be having an easier time.

So let me state two propositions.

The first is very simple. The opening up by the Obama administration of asylum law in an immigration court filing was probably meant to be a bit of show-boating. Which itself is terrible. But I doubt it can be so contained.

The second is there is no universal right in political theory to emigrate to one polity. If that is what has been attempted in the San Francisco courtroom, it was a huge act that snuck by without even the semblance of a public conversation.