An Annotation of J. Washington’s Essay “The New Colossus: Exploring the Idea of Border”
Washington’s essay is an in-depth discussion on the topic of illegal immigration and the brutality that immigrants face as they strive towards the achievement of a better life. In context, the author offers a first hand experience about the cruelty that is marked between the American and Mexican border, with citizens from the latter country being the victims of the inhumane acts promoted on the border. The main theme discussed in the publication concerns the issue of illegal immigration. The author lays premises for the discussion by reviewing the legal framework that defines immigration practices in a bid to establish whether the Mexicans compromise the law in their endeavors or not. The discussion terms the international movement of the Mexicans into the US as illegal yet the author points out that the punishment accorded to such victims surpasses the just reparation for their actions. What the Americans force these Mexicans to observe is outrightly cruel: crawling into cactuses, chaining of individuals, insanitary prisons and food supplies, among others.
The author believes that the US benefits from the Mexicans especially in terms of labor supply. Therefore, it does not make sense for these individuals to be tortured for a situation that has been imposed by the US. This is because the American system is noted to be discriminatory in nature by offering only very limited groupings of the Mexicans that are allowed to be legal entrants. The mitigation to this practice therefore is to be an illegal entrant. The borders referred to within the essay are first geographic – the American-Mexican border. However, more borders are noted within the rest of the discussion, with the second identified as the racial border. All colored individuals within America suffer from a ‘silent’ border on racial terms. Thirdly, cultural and social ranks (borders) also exist within the American nation. The term ‘New Colossus’ is coined from Emma Lazarus’ poem that is engraved within the American Statue of Liberty (Washington 254). The term is used in Washington’s essay as a standard to be used for the appraisal of the nature of relationship that exists between America and Mexico. It is very evident from the poem that America as a nation has turned against her promise and thereby the silent beckoning from the author towards a change.
Memorable Quotes from the Essay
“The only way, I believe, that I can serve to stop the next blister from forming rather than merely treat the last one that popped, is to tell the story,” (Washington 239).
“The history of borders is a history of violence. Even many “peace treaties”…which established, drew or redrew borders throughout history have often been nothing but impetus to further fighting, domination and the splitting of cultures and families,” (Washington 241).
“After the bloody conquest of the native people, America has always been, as people say, a nation of immigrants. How then do we justify still blazoning Emma Lazarus’ poem as national standard on the emblematic statue of America, and yet so violently mistreat and discard migrants like Ignacio?” (Washington 254).
The last quote provides a strong premise to the author’s main argument within the publication on the topic of immigration. The first part of the quote refers to the conquest that occurred between the native people of the American continent and the White settlers. The issue of the border arose particularly on the race border as the latter regarded the former as being mediocre beings with regard to modernization aspects. As the Whites imposed their rule on the natives, it set a stage for war and bloodshed; similarly, the war rages on between the Mexicans and the Americans presently with the issue of immigration. The author has noted that numerous Mexicans lose their lives annually from such conflict. Centuries later, America boasts of an equal society in terms of cultural and racial diversity, as noted on the inscription on the statue of liberty. However, the conclusion is clear that with the cruel treatment afforded to the Mexican immigrants, America has simply ceased to be a country that is open to such individuals. No justification can be accorded to the inhumane treatment occurring within the geographical and cultural borders.
Washington, John. “The New Colossus: Exploring the Idea of Border.” Writing as Revision. Eds. Alvarado, Beth, Barbara Cully, and Michael Robinson. New York, NY: Pearson Custom Pub., 191-203. Print.