Every American schoolchild knows about the immortal 19th Century poem of Emma Lazarus, enshrined in the Statue of Liberty, welcoming immigrants to America from all over the world. Now, it may be time to put an additional document, from the 21st Century, in a place of honor next to Emma Lazarus' poem. This document is not as long as the Lazarus poem, but it may turn out to be no less significant for the future of American immigration.
I refer to the $5 million check written by the billionaire casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson, to a PAC supporting Newt Gingrich for president. This money is to be used for attack ads in South Carolina intended to demolish Mitt Romney, who many people now regard as the inevitable Republican presidential candidate this fall.
No one gives Newt the slightest chance of becoming president himself. He has been weighed down far too much with his own abundant supply of personal and political baggage to be a viable candidate. Nor, if he were elected, would he deserve to have his own immigration policies embedded in the Statue of Liberty.
His much touted "humanity" for immigrants has turned out to be mostly a fraud, as only people who have been in this country without authorization for 25 years (and who go to church - no Muslims, please) would even be eligible to apply for legalization before "community boards", including ones in states such as Alabama and Arizona. End of discussion of Newt's "humanity".
But Gingrich is now in a position to render a vital and long lasting service of a different kind to immigrant communities througout America. Using Adelson's money, Newt's PAC may be about to destroy the image of Romney, who, far from being a "moderate", is now taking the hardest line of all on immigration.
Romney not only supports expanding the border fence, but he also supports the supposed "right" of the states (including, of course, South Carolina) to pass whatever draconian anti-immigrant laws they wish. He regards any letup in deportations as "amnesty", and a "magnet" for illegal immogration. In an excess of extreme pettiness and meanness, he has promised to veto the DREAM Act if it ever reaches his desk.
Using the classic technique of demagogues, Romney has shamelessly attacked his opponents for any lapse whatsoever from the most extreme line against unauthorized immigrants, especially with regard to granting them in-state tuition. He is leaving no stone unturned in his efforts to exploit anti-immigrant hate in order to win the nomination.
It is true that Newt's PAC is not running ads against Mitt in South Carolina over the immigration issue, about which they have a great deal in common anyway. But, by showing Romney up as a "vulture capitalist" and a phony on a great variety of issues, Newt Gingrich is doing more than anyone else in America to leave Romney bloodied and broken going into the general election. Then President Obama may need to do nothing more than pick up the pieces.
That, in fact, is all that Obama is qualified to do. No one has shown more cowardice and lack of spine than America's Deporter in Chief in failing to take on the Republicans over immigration. What a disgrace that he needs someone like Newt Gingrich to do his work for him.
If Romney is elected president, the poem in the Statue of Liberty may need to be updated as follows: "Give me your border fence/Your immigration jails/Your wretched anti-immigrant state laws/Your broken families, your E-verify/Your Secure Communities and deportation mills..." Emma Lazarus, move over.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.