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Statue of Liberty

Do You Know Why the USCIS Virtual Assistant is Called Emma?

When you go to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, you may notice a small box in the upper right-hand corner saying, “Need Help? Ask Emma.”

Who is Emma?

As we celebrate International Women’s Month at Visa Business Plans we are honored to share the story of Emma Lazarus, whom the USCIS virtual assistant is named after.

Ms. Lazarus is best known for writing the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal.

The Statue of Liberty is one of America’s most iconic monuments representing freedom and welcoming immigrants.

Ms. Lazarus’s story and the meaning of her defining sonnet “The New Colossus” are less well-known but equally remarkable.

Who was Emma Lazarus?

Emma Lazarus was a Jewish American writer and activist born in New York City in 1849. She enjoyed a good education and studied with private tutors while learning multiple languages before writing her first book of poems at 17.

Mentored by Ralph Waldo Emerson, she would write several books and a novel while also using her work to speak out against the persecution of Jews in Europe and growing anti-Semitism in the U.S. [1] She also began to advocate for immigrants and refugees and formed the Society for the Improvement and Colonization of East European Jews.

In 1883, she wrote “The New Colossus,” which was to be presented at an auction to raise money for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Afterward, she traveled to Europe multiple times to promote social reform before her death in 1887.

In 1903, 16 years after her death, the “The New Colossus” was engraved on a plaque on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

“The New Colossus”

The “New Colossus” is inspired by the Statue of Liberty and symbolizes the U.S. welcoming to all people who need a home.

The title and opening lines indicate that Lazarus views the Statue of Liberty as an updated version of a statue of the Greek god Helios that stood in Rhodes, Greece. The new monument would welcome exiles: “Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand/A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame/Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name/Mother of Exiles.” [2]

The final six lines of the sonnet are its most famous and personify the Statue of Liberty calling out to other lands and welcoming any and all people that others do not want, no matter their circumstances. [3] She also vows to guide them with her light:

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she

With silent lips. "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,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

For Lazarus, the Statue of Liberty represented a mother figure to welcome all newcomers to America.

For immigrants, “The New Colossus” offers a welcoming promise that America will accept them regardless of their condition or past struggles. While other lands may have forsaken them, they are always welcome in America.

Furthermore, Lady Liberty shines a light on immigrants to make their passage to America easier. Immigrants are gently eased from the ravages of the sea and the rest of the world toward the country’s welcoming gates.

“The New Colossus” inspires hope and welcomes immigrants to this day.

Here at Visa Business Plans, we support immigration attorneys and their clients by providing customized and comprehensive business deliverables. To learn more information and interesting facts or how we can assist investors and entrepreneurs in achieving their dreams, contact us today.

Visa Business Plans is led by Marco Scanu, a certified coach from the University of Miami with a globally-based practice coaching Fortune 1000 company executives, entrepreneurs, as well as professionals in 4 different continents. Mr. Scanu advises clients on turnaround strategies and crisis management.

Mr. Scanu received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (Cum Laude) from the University of Florida and an MBA in Management from Bocconi University in Milan, Italy. Mr. Scanu was also a Visiting Scholar at Michigan State University under the prestigious H. Humphrey Fellowship (Fulbright program) with a focus on Entrepreneurship, Venture Capital, and high-growth enterprises.

At present, Mr. Scanu is the managing partner and CEO at Visa Business Plans, a Miami-based boutique consulting firm providing attorneys and investors with business planning services in the areas of U.S. and Canadian immigration, SBA loans, and others.

[1] https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/emma-lazarus

[2] https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46550/the-new-colossus

[3] https://poemanalysis.com/emma-lazarus/the-new-colossus/