Immigration debate shakes US to the core

NEW YORK, April 30, 2010 (AFP) – From the deck of New York Harbor’s tour boat the Statue of Liberty looks as welcoming today as when greeting new immigrants a century ago. But the soaring figure and even loftier inscription — “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” — get a wry look from passengers Yeni Benitez and Felipe Ramirez.

Benitez, freshly immigrated from Colombia, and her husband Ramirez know first hand the tensions roiling America in the wake of Arizona’s tough new law against illegal immigration.

Ramirez, 28, was already a US citizen but says it took him almost a year and “a hundred layers of bureaucracy” to get his wife into the country, where she finally arrived Tuesday at New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

“The irony of that statue,” he said, looking over the choppy harbor below the skyscrapers of Manhattan, “is that those poor and huddled masses are exactly the people who they don’t want to come.”

If Arizona’s controversial new controls are anything to go by, then foreigners could face an even chillier reception in a country constructed on immigration.

The law signed by Governor Jan Brewer