‘Send Them Here!’

Such at least was the editorial position of Life magazine in September 1946 as the editors contemplated the fate of the many hundreds of thousands of displaced persons, mostly Jews and other Eastern Europeans, stuck in de facto concentration camps on the continent. More than a year earlier, the fighting had ended. War-induced suffering had not, and the flagship of Henry Luce’s journalistic empire was appalled at American callousness in the face of such large-scale human misery.

Restrictive U.S. immigration laws dating from the 1920s provided Washington a convenient excuse for limiting its response to mere tokenism. Life’s editors found particularly galling the U.S. unwillingness to admit Holocaust survivors, even as the Truman administration was chastising Great Britain for its reluctance to allow Jews to emigrate to British-controlled Palestine. Quoting the words of Emma Lazarus inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty—“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”—Life noted “nobody has yet got around to erasing” that text. In effect, however, Congress had rendered it inoperative.https://dee597c3712ad7e1a4a4802c103187e9.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

In the decades since, U.S. immigration policy has changed radically from what it was at the end of World War II. So too, as a consequence, has this nation’s ethnic and racial composition. Yet in 2021, on both sides of the U.S. border with Mexico, the functional equivalent of D.P. camps have appeared, as wave after wave of self-displaced migrants, primarily from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, flood north to seek refuge in the United States. Rather than the after-effects of war, violence, crime, and poverty are spurring this movement. But the result does not differ appreciably from the situation that raised the ire of Life’s editors 75 years ago.

When the migrant problem was Donald Trump’s, the media denounced his administration’s response, using terms like “harsh,” “callous,” and “cruel,” and justifiably so. Whether the media critique will remain equally unsparing now that the problem is Joe Biden’s remains to be seen. But fundamentals of the problem remain unchanged: Desperate people will take great risks and undergo great hardships in hopes of finding sanctuary in the United States.

Read the full article in The American Conservative.

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