"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
These words, gleamingly etched on the Statue of Liberty, have greeted immigrants from stricken lands for more than a century.
Since the inception of our nation as 13 former British colonies, waves of voyagers from Europe, Russia and Asia flocked to the shores of New York, yearning for safety and better economic opportunities.
Asylum seekers have continued to establish themselves in the country, including the Chinese and Japanese, as well as Syrians and other Arabs, who became woven into the fabric of Chicago, New York and Michigan from early 1900s to the '70s.
As today's Syrian civil war and domestic terrorism take center stage in international media and in shaping politics, conservative groups in the West have increasingly had an extreme reaction, taking steps to shield their towns from the fanaticism and bloodshed in the Middle East.
In Syria, the exodus of more than half the country's families have led what the United Nations calls the worst humanitarian and refugee crisis history has ever witnessed. The organization currently manages the referral of refugees to stable counties that would accept them. Many from Iraq and Yemen have followed suit.
These refugees are forced to leave their homes – turned to rubble – leaving all their belongings and often additional family members behind, due to vicious militant attacks that have rendered their land uninhabitable.
The perpetrators are the same groups the U.S. and European governments have rightfully come to fear.
Locally, elected officials have taken up efforts to ban refugees from resettling in their cities and townships, calling the refugee screening process weak and incapable of vetting would-be terrorists.
On Wednesday, the Michigan House of Representative's Local Government Committee passed a 7-4 bill to halt refugees from residing in the state.
All who voted for the resolution were Republicans; all who voted against it were Democrats.
Although not a law, Waterford Township's Board of Trustees passed a 7-0 vote in October to keep Syrian refugees out of the town, until the federal government can tighten its reins on the vetting process.
Republican State Reps. David Trott and Mike McCready, whose districts include parts of both Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham, are among the legislators on the forefront of anti-refugee efforts in both the House and Waterford Township.
Around the same time, campaign literature was sent to Oakland County residents by former Republican Water Resources Commissioner John McCulloch, who ran against Democrat County Treasurer Andy Meisner.
The mailer quotes Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Oakland Sheriff Michael Bouchard, who is of Lebanese background, both Republicans. They stated, respectively, that "Meisner is playing with nitroglycerin" and that the "vetting process for Syrian refuges is entirely insufficient."
Even though Arab American households are often victims of federal surveillance and intense scrutiny, Arab Americans have proven to be among the most educated and financially successful immigrant groups in the nation. Undeterred activism and the protection of civil rights have won this community unprecedented lawsuits and exposed legally-guarded atrocities against Arab and Muslims.
The Arab American News continues to expose hate crimes and bigotry-based laws as they arise.
With President-elect Donald Trump's victory, his unapologetically anti-Muslim cabinet picks and the surge of hateful incidents against minorities that follow, Arab Americans have a responsibility to maintain a close eye on the political radar.
Community organizations and activists have a duty to fiercely mobilize into the upper echelons of the legislature.
Since its foundation, the United States has never ceased to be a nation of immigrants. Combined, newcomers and their U.S.-born children make up more than 26 percent of the population.
Michigan's suburbs have become among the most diverse in the nation and its immigrant and refugee population is steadily increasing.
That diversity should be reflected in our state's capitol.
We urge our Republican lawmakers to uphold the moral standards of their party – the "Grand Old Party" of President Lincoln that was at the forefront of the anti-slavery movement.
Many of Michigan's officials and refugees we have gotten to know attest that the newcomers – primarily educated professionals, women and children – undergo a strict vetting process to enter the U.S. They have been suddenly unearthed from their neighborhoods and arrived scared, yet are remarkably ready to take on jobs to feed their families, pay rent and make a difference.
A great deal of Syrian settlers dedicate their careers to saving lives as leading physicians in hospitals statewide.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has also explained that any approved refugee must undergo a security screening process "more thorough than any other for people entering this country."
From start to finish, the process includes the involvement of the National Counterterrorism Center, FBI, DHS, Department of State and Department of Defense.
It is troubling when we consistently witness primarily Republican federal and local officials turn their backs on the country's founding principles and rely on distorted rhetoric to push laws they espouse to pander for votes.
In reaction to extremist ideologies, the Republican Party has turned extreme.
Democrats and some Republican legislators who have spoken to The AANews condemn anti-immigrant sentiments, and we commend them.
We call on elected officials to seek out facts and relationships with recent refugees before ensuring discriminatory laws that would impact countless lives of those escaping persecution and death.
We are proud to be part of a nation and state that continues to be a shining beacon of diversity and inclusiveness, while recognizing the unmatched strength of our intelligence and military.
Let us magnify our voices in the face of injustice, preserve our compassion and urge our government to, as Lincoln said, listen to "the better angels" of its nature to keep every American and refugee safe.