There are a few quotes and phrases that are so American -- and so anodyne -- that they amount to a kind of bipartisan lexicon, cited with equal fervor by Democrats and Republicans alike. For example:
Land of the free, home of the brave.
All men are created equal.
Liberty and justice for all.
Government of the people, by the people, for the people.
For more than a half-century, the litany has also included a phrase popularized by President John F. Kennedy: “A nation of immigrants.”
Time and again, presidents and leaders of both parties have invoked those four words to lionize the contributions immigrants have made to the U.S. In 1981, for instance, Ronald Reagan invoked it: “Our nation is a nation of immigrants. More than any other country, our strength comes from our own immigrant heritage and our capacity to welcome those from other lands.”
Why, then, has the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which issues green cards and citizenship documents, deleted the phrase from its mission statement? Agencies are free to revise their mission statements, of course.
And the previous mission statement was not exactly poetry. But when the person in the Oval Office routinely employs nativist rhetoric, scapegoats foreigners, seeks lower levels of immigration, and makes it more difficult to obtain green cards and visas, it is nearly impossible to see the deletion as mere coincidence.
In fairness: President Donald Trump has used the phrase “nation of immigrants” at least once - albeit in a written statement defending his attempt to ban immigrants from seven Muslim nations.
But the totality of his comments makes clear his hostility toward immigrants, at least from non-European countries.
This is not the first time the Trump administration downplayed America’s immigrant heritage.
Last year, one of the president’s senior policy advisers dismissed the poem that is affixed to the Statue of Liberty - “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” - saying it “was added later; it’s not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty.”
True enough, but it was written for the statue and came to define it.
Given the inanity of the president’s tweets, what the Trump administration chooses not to say is often more telling than what it does.
And while Trump may be a lost cause, Republicans ought to speak out against the nativism he continues to display on a regular basis - if not to defend historical truth and American values, then at least to prevent further damage to their party’s reputation.