“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses”

February 1st, 2017

The historical narrative of North America is built on immigration. Both Canada and United States, and Mexico, for that matter, are largely populated by the sons, daughters, and other descendants of individuals and families who at one point made a major life decision to seek a new and better life far from home.

For many, this continent became their home away from home. The closing words of The New Colossus, written by Emma Lazarus in 1883 and placed on the Statue of Liberty in New York harbour, became a mantra:

“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-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

But these lines, which informed public policy for generations, have now officially been tossed aside.

The nefarious actions of the newly-inaugurated U.S. President Donald Trump could not be more at odds with what the U.S. has historically purported to be. Trump’s executive order banning all entry to the U.S. from seven majority-Muslim countries is at the very least mean-spirited. It is also confusing and chaotic, deliberately so. The ostensible purpose of ‘Protecting the nation’ is also undermined by the very order contained in the text.

Over the past week, sober-minded politicians (including Democrats and Republicans south of the border, as well as politicians of all stripes here in Canada) have pointed out various cases in which the new policy makes no sense from a national security point of view, and is cruel in its creation and implementation.

The contrast with Canada could not be more stark. While the reactionary bigots that have taken office in Washington were ruining lives and careers at the stroke of a pen, Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s new Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, was barely getting used to his new top-level cabinet role in Ottawa.

Mr Hussen, who has been impressive in the early days of his new job, is a Somali refugee who obtained Canadian citizenship just 15 years ago. He is a dual citizen. Over the course of his academic, professional and public careers, he has shown himself to be a builder of bridges between communities. For example, under his leadership, the Canadian Somali Congress (CSC) partnered with the Canadian International Peace Project and Canadian Jewish Congress to establish the Canadian Somali-Jewish Mentorship Project.

And yet, this is the sort of individual now banned from entering the U.S. Somalis, together with Iranians, Iraqis, Libyans, Sudanese, Syrians and Yemenis, are now banned from entering the U.S., even if they have been granted a visa to enter that country (and yes, this means they have already been vetted). This affects students, workers, visitors, and others.

Throughout my life, I have met countless Americans who are open-minded and fair. I believe that such people make up the majority in the U.S. You only have to look at the reaction of some seasoned Republicans, such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham, to see that Trump’s order does not have majority public support. Together with broad-level public outcry, I am hopeful that Trump’s policy will not be around for long.

Meanwhile, the government of Canada has set out measures to allow foreign nationals in Canada affected by the U.S. ban to apply for or extend their current temporary status, and work temporarily if they have no other means of support. Fees for these applications have been waived. In order to apply, individuals are required to meet Canada’s admissibility criteria and provide an explanation of how they are affected. The policy advises designated officers to “consider granting an exemption from the requirements of the [Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA)] to foreign nationals from Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Iraq who are in Canada on or after January 27, 2017 and have been negatively impacted by the U.S. executive order.” The temporary public policy is currently in place until April 30, 2017.

Clearly, there continues to be a country on this continent that does live by the sentiment of The New Colossus. That country is Canada, and with a new immigration minister who has a positive personal narrative and altruistic nature, let us hope that those yearning to breathe free can find a home among us.

Previous Blog : Should I Stay or Should I Go?
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17 Responses to ““Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses””

  • On February 2nd, 2017, Dennis Havlena said ...

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! So embarrased for the USA

  • On February 2nd, 2017, Dennis Havlena said ...

    PS: Dismayed US resident currently awaiting Cert. of Citizenship – by descent

  • On February 4th, 2017, Jasmine said ...

    Canada as a nation holds a place of respect and reverence among millions of immigration seekers across the globe because of its open minded and liberal approach. It can become an exemplary global world in years to come. Great going Canada!!

  • On February 9th, 2017, S.m.jeelani said ...

    We salute Canada, its Prime Minister and David Coven for keeping high the emblam of statue of liberty by allowing refuse to the poor, wretched, and capable human of this word. God bless you all.

  • On February 9th, 2017, Anonymous said ...

    Thank you for this commentary. As a US citizen just south of the border, I could not agree with you more, nor could I be more admiring and proud of the approach Canada is taking. I have long dreamed of moving to Canada, and now more than ever, but sadly I cannot afford the costs that the permits would require, should I be offered a spot, and so here I sit, reading and dreaming. Keep up the good work!

  • On February 11th, 2017, teresa said ...

    I love Canada….never did I think I would be so frightened to live in the U.S. Thanks for showing Americans what goodness looks like.

  • On February 15th, 2017, MB said ...

    Nice piece, thanks so much for writing it.

  • On February 18th, 2017, Anonymous said ...

    Tears roll down my eyes as I see those innocent kids flee with their parents . God bless Canada

  • On February 20th, 2017, Ajoke mosunmola dosunmu said ...

    God keep blessing and protecting canada.

  • On February 21st, 2017, Donna Lavoie said ...

    I too am appalled by the narrow minded view of the new US administration. I can only watch and be proud that I’m Canadian, as I applaud the efforts of our country to be fair and welcoming.

  • On February 22nd, 2017, Agnes Staples said ...

    Well expressed article. Always admire Canada’s leading role in humanitarian migration.

  • On February 22nd, 2017, Teofilo L. Legson Jr. said ...

    Canada is a good and great country for migrate,living and work beautiful places and one of peaceful to live,Hope someday we are there in my only favorite to live together with my family…

  • On February 23rd, 2017, . said ...

    Your article above gives a warm and fuzzy resonance for those who want to believe it to be true. Unfortunately, while Canada is open arms to refugees, it at the same time employs the same American values to everyone else. I am a Canadian citizen living presently with my love in the Philippines. It is all bit impossible to obtain a tourist visa. Canada makes the assumption my girlfriend and I would not return to the Philippines but would stay on in Canada, heaven forbid, and as such denies entry for me to introduce my partner to my friends and family and for me to show off Canada to her. This would be exactly the same were we married.
    We have no intention of staying in Canada until my partner has completed her education here and we are married; then we will apply at that time if we feel ready.
    With the exception of refugees, Canada is simply a lesser version of American paranoia.

  • On February 23rd, 2017, Anonymous said ...

    How about Canada pull out of the Safe Third Country Agreement? Or would we rather have people hike through the snow?

  • On February 23rd, 2017, Popson said ...

    Thank you for this wonderful piece – you always been a wonderful writer and great inspiration. I have always admire Canada since I was a child and am very proud of the approach Canada is taking. I have long been dreaming of moving to Canada, and now more than ever, but sadly I cannot afford the costs that the permits would require. What can be done to help please. I NEED TO STOP DREAMING AND LIVE THE DREAM NOW!
    Please Keep up the good work and continue to encourage and enlighting the “parochials”!

  • On February 24th, 2017, MD.MUJIBUL HAQUE said ...

    actually the professional person should give the parmanent recedence facility with visa arrangement who will devolep some producing line in America or canada.like me i have 30 yesrs more of gas cooking appliancess assembling experiance in Bangladesh.but i can not get the chance for visa and other facility in America and canada.

  • On February 25th, 2017, Anonymous said ...

    I salute the Canadian spirit

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