The Statue of Liberty celebrates her 125th anniversary today.
The statue was a gift of friendship given by France to the United States in 1886, and she has come to symbolize freedom and the American Dream.
She is also a symbol for immigrants:
"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," reads part of Emma Lazarus's sonnet, New Colossus, affixed within the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in 1903.
There is a celebration in New York underway this morning and 125 legal immigrants will become U.S. citizens on Liberty Island.
As of 2010, there were around 37 million foreign-born in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Around 10 million are from Asia, 4.5 million from Europe, 20.4 million from Latin America, including over half from Mexico. The other 2.5 million foreign-born come from other parts of the world, according to U.S. Census population surveys.
It is estimated that there are around 11 million undocumented in the United States.
Still immigrants today, whether they have legal status or not, are a smaller percentage of the total population. For example, in 1890, a few years after Lady Liberty graced U.S. shores, immigrants were around 15 percent of the total U.S. population. Today, they are around 12 percent of the population. Undocumented immigrants account for less than 4 percent of the U.S. population.
Of course what to do about immigration is a national debate that has reached the state and local levels.
We have states like Arizona and Alabama passing anti-immigration laws that have been partially stalled by the courts. States like California and Illinois passed progressive laws, such as statewide DREAM Acts to help undocumented youth pay for college.
Immigration policy is all over the map in the United States. Why?
The U.S. Congress has failed to act.
DREAM Act students have waited nearly a decade for legislation that would give them legal status. They have been educated in the United States, many graduate from college and then they are stuck with no legal work options.
But what about their parents or adult siblings?
There are reports that Democrats may try to re-introduce immigration reform before the end of the year. But they don't have the votes.
Once an issue with bipartisan support, we see most Republicans and even some Democrats against any type of reform. Just look at how negatively the immigration issue has been debated by the Republicans running for president with Herman Cain's talk of electrified fences and Texas Gov. Rick Perry getting beat up for having "a heart," for supporting the DREAM Act in Texas.
Cain apologized, sort of. There is a negative and at times hateful tone in this debate.
I think it would make Lady Liberty shed a tear.