The “Again” in President Donald Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” obviously doesn’t refer to 1886. That’s the year the Statue of Liberty commemorated lasting friendship between the people of France and the United States. Today, under President Trump, our lasting friendship with France and other NATO allies has been replaced by distrust, animosity and disinterest in protecting human rights.

The Statue of Liberty, a symbol of freedom and democracy, once inspired immigrants to seek a better life in America. Some of my relatives told me how they shed tears of joy as they passed through Ellis Island and saw the welcoming words on the statue: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Today, many would-be immigrants on our southern border are shedding tears of sorrow because yearning to be free is becoming an impossible dream. President Trump has called them rapists and terrorists, and prioritizes building a massive wall to keep them out. We might as well change Lady Liberty’s welcoming invitation to “Keep out your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Though there may be no easy answers about immigration, I wish Americans would show more empathy for the plight of people fleeing desperate conditions in their own countries. It is through pure chance of birth that many of us, myself included, are not fleeing other countries to escape danger or find jobs to feed our families. After all, what would you do in that situation?

Herb Silverman

George Street

Charleston