By: Michael B. Berger, Esq. Berger & Berger Law Office
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 gold door!” Excerpt, The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus.
The United States has been long viewed as a safe haven for those fleeing persecution. In fact, the Statue of Liberty memorializes this notion with the poem by Emma Lazarus, as excerpted above. Refugees and immigrants have been coming to modern day America since the 1600s, when people fled Europe to escape religious persecution with the hope of finding a better life. The United States has remained a beacon of refuge and hope for the last 400 years. However, recently the United States, as a perceived beacon of refuge, has come under attack by the very people who have benefited from their ancestors coming to America with the hope of a better life.
The question remains: is the U.S. still a beacon of refuge? This is a matter of contention; the old country of refuge is no longer. Policy and laws have begun to shape how refugees are defined and how, or if, they are able to come. The United States enacted the first refugee legislation in 1948. It wasn’t until the Refugee Act of 1980 that we saw the codification and standardization of resettlement services for refugees admitted into the United States.