The Statue of Liberty has long been an internationally recognized icon of American freedom. The statue was a gift to the United States from the people of France and was once a welcoming sight to immigrants arriving from overseas.

The Statue of Liberty has long been an internationally recognized icon of American freedom. The statue was a gift to the United States from the people of France and was once a welcoming sight to immigrants arriving from overseas.
The idea for the statue came from Édouard René de Laboulaye, president of the French Anti-Slavery Society, an ardent supporter of the Union during the American Civil War, as a monument to independence and the Union victory in 1865. It was designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel, the architect of the Eiffel tower in Paris. The project was nearly terminated for lack of funding until publisher Joseph Pulitzer started a drive for donations.
The Liberty figure is a representation of Libertas, the goddess of freedom, worshiped by emancipated slaves in ancient Rome. Many American coins of the time had a Liberty head on them and a Liberty figure was on the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building. The torch was intended as a symbol of progress and light. A broken chain lies at the statue's feet. The crown has seven rays forming a halo representing the sun, the seven seas and seven continents. The tablet held by Liberty bears the inscription of the date of the Declaration of Independence “JULY IV MDCCLXXVI”
Perhaps as famous as the statue itself is one of several plaques associated with the statue. That plaque contains a sonnet written by Emma Lazarus, an American poet, writer and translator, and is mounted on the pedestal base of the statue. The sonnet, entitled “The New Colossus,” was intended as a world-wide welcome to arriving immigrants as they sailed into New York harbor. It was not part of the original installation, but was dedicated to the statue in 1903, fifteen years after Lazarus's death. Most of us know the final two sentences almost by heart, but the entire short prose is worthy of repeating:
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!"
We now face a question as to what that sonnet means to each of us. The DACA issue is at the very heart of a political firestorm. Critics simply tell children of illegal immigrants to apply for citizenship. But apparently they do not know that in order to do so requires them to return to their country of origin, and remain there until naturalization processes are completed, to live in a country they never knew except as a child, where many of them have no families, no relatives and don't speak the language. These immigrants include doctors, lawyers, teachers, and business owners who have become part of the American success story. And yet our politicians stick to an obsolete law never intended to create hardship, division, angst, inconvenience and hatred.
What was once the pride and backbone of American integration and ingenuity, has become a subject of contention and polarization. What was once an open invitation to come join us in building the greatest nation on earth has become a barrier to the very diversity that made us what we are. What was once an international symbol of acceptance has become an icon of resistance.
What was once intended as a symbol of mutual cooperation and acceptance has become a statue of questionable authenticity. What once was a nation of fearless cooperation following two great world wars has become a nation afraid to stand on the principles upon which it once had great pride and courage.
What was once a great handshake between allies has become a black eye. What was once a great work of art, given in gratitude for our help, has become a hypocritical icon of isolationism. What was once a light of acceptance has threatened to become for many a darkened lantern above a once-golden door.

Mike Davis writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.