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Sunday, June 13, 2004

Farce of Darkness.

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!"
- Emma Lazarus, "The New Colossus"
These are words of power.

Since 1903 these words have graced the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty and, almost from their first appearance there, have been the foundation of one of the most commonly touted of the "Great American Truths": that anyone can come to America to pursue their dreams, to live a better life. In short, to be free.

Unfortunately, for many, the "Great American Truth" is the Great American Myth:
Thousands of Latin American teens fleeing gangs and poverty in their home nations are being turned away from the United States. *
One teen who was sent "home" was Edgar Chocoy:
...a soccer-loving 16-year-old who fled gang violence in Guatemala City to join his mother in the United States.

Then he was arrested with a gang. When U.S. authorities in Denver moved to deport him, he begged for asylum, saying gangs would kill him if he was sent home.

A judge deported him anyway. Back in Guatemala he was murdered, shot in the back of the neck. *
According to statistics 990 Latino teens (most from Mexico and Central America) were deported from the U.S. in 2003. It is unknown how many others are refused entry (for whatever reason) at the border(s). Most are not even granted the benefit of a hearing.
"I don't think the United States has the resources or even the obligation to ensure that every child in the world is cared for well. But the kids we have contact with, we do have an obligation to them."
- Wade Horn (assistant secretary of health and human services) *
There is legislation before the Congress (the Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act of 2003 - S.1129), but don't expect it to be passed under the current administration. In the meantime the deportations and refusals continue, the hearings are not held, and those affected are being unceremoniously dumped back into the poverty and danger they were so desperately fleeing from. For many (those who survive their deportations) the dream of America is so strong that they try to return again and again:
"We don't want to do bad things. Our intent is to find a job and make money," said José Mendes, 16, deported from Texas to Guatemala, waiting for a northbound train at Hidalgo, Mexico.

"We make such a long trip. We almost get there. We just have to make another step. And they say, 'No.' They don't know how we feel. It's so hard, because you didn't reach what you wanted." *
On October 28, 1886 the Statue of Liberty was unveiled. In the speech he gave at the unveiling, President Grover Cleveland said "We will not forget that Liberty has made here her home, nor shall her chosen altar be neglected."

These days in America it seems Lady Liberty is an absent tenant and that "her chosen altar" - the United States - is being denied to many. Because of this, be it for reasons of political or public will (fueled, perhaps, by selfishness and/or insecurity), the "Golden Doors" are being locked and barred, and the words of power that fuel the "American Dream/Myth" are, in the end, reduced to the insignificance of mere words. For many, like José Mendes, the Dream is still alive and they will keep trying to attain it.

But for many others, such as Edgar Chocoy, the Lamp of Liberty has been permanently extinguished...

[EG wishes to point out that he is one of those barred from entering the USofA under Sec. 212(a)(1)(A)(i) - not that he particularly wants to go there...]