NEW ORLEANS ( WGNO) - The words written on a plaque on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty capture the idea of the United States as a melting pot.
The poem, by Emma Lazarus, reads in part: “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…”
The melting pot culture is something migration specialist and Loyola research fellow Susan Weishar firmly believes in.
"We have a proud legacy of resettling refugees here in Louisiana, from the Acadians in the 1700s to the Haitians in the early 1800s to the Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s; we're a better state because of it,” says Weishar.
What she finds hard to believe is the political grandstanding happening since Friday's terror attacks in Paris. She calls it a “sad lack of leadership.”
Governor Bobby Jindal, Senator David Vitter, and gubernatorial candidate John Bel Edwards are calling for an end to Syrian refugee immigration, and specifically putting a halt to arrivals in Louisiana and New Orleans.
But Weishar points out, they have no legal say in the matter.
It's an exclusive presidential power. Shaking her head while reading the political statements that have been made, she says she hopes education can one day overcome stereotypes and stigmas.
“The people that come here as refugees are the victims of that terror that we saw in Paris. But they’re the victims of that terror in their own country. Refugees bring with them incredible resilience, and courage and determination,” says Weishar.
She would know. For 14 years, she was the director of the Catholic organization that helps resettle refugees in New Orleans. She says Louisiana should hope for more refugees, not less.
“The educational system in Syria is one of the most advanced in the Middle East and its many of the professionals that have the wherewithal that they are fleeing the country, they realize they have no future there. What we have to look forward to are some incredibly strong people that are going to continue to just replenish the American dream.”