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-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
What do these words mean today? Yesterday, the latest immigration bill died in the senate, signaling that the government, and the country, will continue to look for a direction for our immigration policy.
In this context, it is useful to examine how other countries have dealt with the pressures and benefits of immigration. In The Boundaries of the Republic: Migrant Rights and the Limits of Universalism in France, 1918-1940, Mary Dewhurst Lewis turns to interbellum France to examine Europe's first guest worker program and the transformations it underwent as France experienced difficult economic and political circumstances. There is much, she argues, that could be used in our current dilemma from the lessons that France learned in the years before the Second World War.
One of the lessons Lewis presents is that there is not a straightforward connection between the integrity of a country's sovereignty and the extent of migrant rights. The reality is a complex negotiation between various interests and levels of power in which there is always a combination of benefit and loss. There can be no straightforward answer our current dilemma, making the nuances of France's journey – first admitting nearly two million immigrants, and then expelling 93,000 of them – relevant and engaging.