COLUMN: Let’s keep America’s golden door open to others

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By Randy Patrick

Today we celebrate America. But let’s make sure it’s the real America we celebrate and not some nostalgic notion of a country that never was.

The real America is, and always has been, a nation of immigrants who make up the beautiful kaleidoscope of our culture.

The American idea is exemplified by the words of Emma Lazarus from “Colossus,” the last lines of which are familiar to us because they are on the Statue of Liberty.

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 is often said of late that we cannot have open borders, and that is true. But if we are to be the real America, we must have open hearts and open minds.

Part of being open-minded is to question political rhetoric and rather look to facts.

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence,” John Adams, a lawyer and one of our nation’s founders, said in 1770.

Here are some facts many Americans don’t know.

There is no crisis of illegal immigration at the Mexican border.

Crossings have been declining for years. In 2000, there were more than 200,000 illegal immigrants streaming across our southern border each month, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Since 2011, that number has been under 50,000 except for one year. This year, so far, it’s about 40,000, and many of those are refugees from Central America rather than Mexicans.

It isn’t just that our authorities have become more effective at enforcement. The number of persons apprehended or turned away has also declined. Last year, that number was about a third of what it was in 2005, when it was 1.2 million a year.

From 2009 to 2014, there were more illegal immigrants going back to Mexico than coming into the U.S., in part because of deportations, which increased under former President Barack Obama. But the main reason for the net outflow, according to research by the Pew Center, is family reunification.

Most immigrants who come here do so legally. The 170,000 who came here illegally in 2016 — the last year for which there are complete records — were about one-seventh the number who came with green card status, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

If you think we don’t need more immigrants, consider this: In 1980, there were 19 adults aged 65 and older for every 100 adults 18 to 64. The U.S. Census projects that by 2030, there will be 35 seniors for ever 100 working-age Americans.

And last year, the U.S. birth rate hit a 30-year low. Unless the birth rate or immigration increases, we’re not going to have enough workers to support those of us who will be getting Social Security and Medicare then, if those programs still exist.

Despite automation, most employers say we need more workers, and immigrants often do the hard work that others won’t do, such as harvesting vegetables, framing houses and working in restaurant kitchens.

We are a big, big-hearted country made up of people who have always come here with big ambitions from every land. They built America and are building it still.

We don’t need to make America great again because America is and always has been the greatest country — because of our rich diversity and generosity of spirit.