Remember America, the immigrant nation?

Now President Obama has signed the healthcare reform bill, let's talk immigration.

Rob Carr/AP Photo
Saul Linares (l.) waves an American flag after arriving at a church in Baltimore March 18, after walking the past six days from Hempstead, NY. Mr. Linares, a factory worker, will join other immigrants, most of them undocumented Hispanics, in Washington, D.C., for a march to dramatize their pleas for immigration reform.

Health care reform is law. Now can we talk about something else?

Next up on the policy-making agenda in DC is, hopefully, immigration reform. We've long advocated here at the Kauffman Foundation for something like a Startup Visa, a program that would grant citizenship to migrants who want to (and are able to) create new firms and jobs in America (but be sure to read this counterpoint). I go one step further, and believe America would be wise to return to its roots as a more open society in general, not just with the high-skill immigrants.

As the "nation of immigrants" embarks on another policy discussion, it might help to keep our cultural heritage in mind. I often hear the words of Emma Lazarus echo in my mind, for example. The words of her poem, The New Colossus, inscribed on the plaque that has been mounted since 1903 on the inner wall of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty:

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

And then there is the play, The Melting Pot, published in 1908. In it, the protagonist proclaims,

America is God's Crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and reforming... Germans and Frenchmen, Irishmen and Englishmen, Jews and Russians - into the Crucible with you all! God is making the American.

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