Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly is sick and tired of people invoking the Statue of Liberty to advocate for fixing our immigration laws.
In a radio commentary today Schlafly – who previously argued that the Bible’s mandate for “compassion” doesn’t apply to immigrants – commemorates the anniversary of the dedication of the Statue of Liberty by declaring that the statue “has nothing whatsoever to do with immigration.” Instead, she argued, “people who had nothing to do with this great gift from the French were allowed to paste a plague on the base of the statue with a quotation that has misrepresented the statue as an invitation to open immigration.”
“Remember, it’s the Statue of Liberty, not the Statue of Immigration,” she concludes.
While Schlafly is correct that the Statue of Liberty was not originally meant by the French to commemorate immigration, it quickly became a symbol of America’s promise for immigrants. As a National Parks Service historian told the New York Times, the statue “became really famous among immigrants. And it was really immigrants that lifted her up to a sort of a glory that was probably before America really fully embraced her.” The addition of the plaque with Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus” 20 years after the statue’s erection merely reinforced this symbolic value.
Schlafly somewhat undermines her case by quoting speeches from presidents who were very aware of the statue’s symbolic value. Schlafly selectively quotes Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech at the fiftieth anniversary of the dedication of the statue…a speech that was all about the importance of immigrants to American life. Likewise, she quotes Ronald Reagan’s speech at the statue’s centennial, which was also focused on the statue’s symbolism of a nation of immigrants. “Which of us does not think of other grandfathers and grandmothers, from so many places around the globe, for whom this statue was the first glimpse of America?” he asked.
But no, Schlafly says, “The statue has nothing to do with immigration.”
The Statue of Liberty is probably the most identifying symbol of America. It's almost like a religious shrine for Americans. Today is the anniversary of its dedication on October 28, 1886. A gift from France, it was built by Gustav Eiffel, the builder of the Eiffel Tower, and designed by Auguste Bartholdi, who wrote this about the Statue of Liberty: "The statue was born for this place which inspired its conception. May God be pleased to bless my efforts and my work, and to crown it with success, the duration and moral influence which it ought to have."
On the Statue of Liberty's 50th anniversary in 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated: "The Almighty did prepare this American continent to be a place of the second chance.... Millions have ... found ... freedom of opportunity, freedom of thought, freedom to worship God." President Dwight Eisenhower stated in 1954: "It represents ... a nation whose greatness is based on a firm unshakable belief that all of us mere mortals are dependent upon the mercy of a Superior Being." When the Statue of Liberty was relighted after a restoration, President Ronald Reagan said in 1986: "I've always thought ... that God had His reasons for placing this land here between two great oceans..."
The Statue of Liberty memorializes the unique liberty we enjoy in America. It has nothing whatever to do with immigration. It's most unfortunate that people who had nothing to do with this great gift from the French were allowed to paste a plaque on the base of the Statue with a quotation that has misrepresented the Statue as an invitation to open immigration. The Statue has nothing to do with immigration.
Remember, it's the Statue of Liberty, not the Statue of Immigration.