The United States has often celebrated its heritage as "a nation of immigrants," most recently during the festivities surrounding the renovation of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The centennial paid homage to romantic themes originally captured by the poet Emma Lazarus in the inscription on the Statue of Liberty:

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.

Yet a fundamental ambivalence has always marred this vision of the United States as a haven for the distressed. During the last century, this ambivalence has produced a series of laws restricting immigration.

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