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The Evolution Of American Public Opinion Towards Refugees

Spoiler: It hasn’t evolved that much

In 1903, the poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus was engraved onto the base of the Statue of Liberty. You may not know the sonnet by name, but you know the its final lines:


“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!”

Despite the fact that the United States of America is a nation of immigrants, public opinion around welcoming them has been historically cool. In the video above, GOOD takes you on a tour of global catastrophes that have resulted massive swathes of displaced people, from World War II to the expansion of the Soviet Union following the rise to power of Nikita Khrushchev to the Sino-Vietnamese War and on to the Mariel Boatlift incident in Cuba. Then in the mid-1980s, sentiment about taking in refugees was measured at around the same time the Cartegna Declaration was signed to protect refugees in Latin America. Next comes the U.S. military invention in a civil conflict in Haiti that displaced thousands, and most recently the Syrian Civil War, which has resulted in literally millions of people seeking refuge across the globe.

Let’s hope millions of Americans never need to knock on international doors for aid, because we haven’t been paying very close attention to the Golden Rule throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.

Music: NYM - Seven Hills
Produced and Written by Gabriel Reilich

Graphics by Jake Infusino

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