“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!”-- “The New Colossus,” by Emma Lazarus, inscribed on a plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty
Many people point to the above words as evidence that America’s borders are wide open to any and all who want to come to America. Largely, that is true, but no one expects the words on this plaque to include those who want to come to America to commit acts of terrorism.
There is great division in our country about who should be allowed to immigrate here and even who should be allowed to stay. That division has often spilled over into angry outbursts and protests.
Somewhere, however, lies a middle ground and several immigrants interviewed by this newspaper just within Greenwood County reflect that middle ground. Their views do not mirror those who suggest a wholesale Muslim ban be instituted, nor do their views mirror those who suggest borders be wide open to all.
It was, frankly, heartening to hear from people such as Niria Sanchez Abadia, Nina Manelashvili, Petr Akpov and Sammy Nasrollahi. They understand what it means to leave one’s country and begin anew in another, one where hopes, dreams and aspirations can finally be realized. And they understand it must be done legally. They also realize there is a bit of a broadbrush approach to how immigrants are viewed, which is part and parcel to the division and mistrust, the calls for sealing the borders.
Abadia, co-owner of Buenavista Cuban Café, and her Uptown neighbor, Nasrollahi, who owns Rugs of Distinction, share a common view. Abadia came to the U.S. from Mexico, her husband is from Cuba. Nasrollahi came to the U.S. from Iran in 1974.
Both want security within the borders of the United States. “…that’s why we’re here, because America is completely different than where we came from,” Abadia told the Index-Journal. “I suggest that everyone come to our country, but to do it right,” Nasrollahi said.
These are trying times. Many want to immigrate to America for all the right reasons. This is where they can make a better life for themselves and their families, and be productive new citizens of their adopted homeland. Others want to infiltrate America’s borders in an attempt to bring what many consider to be the greatest country in the world to its knees.
America will be even better with the presence of those who immigrate here for the right reasons. Somehow, we must ensure their safe passage while ensuring America itself remains safe.