Sign up for Meridian’s Free Newsletter, please CLICK HERE

President Donald Trump’s divisive campaign rhetoric on immigration, along with the administration’s horrible rollout of his executive order, sparked protests across the country. That spark has been fanned and fueled into a raging flame by opponents and opportunists who have misrepresented what the executive order actually does just to make political points and raise millions of dollars. This is not what keeping the lamp of freedom burning bright is supposed to look like.

Separating genuine concern and proper protests from manufactured outrage and hyperbolic hysteria is proving to be difficult in the digital age.

Many opponents rightly pointed to the Statue of Liberty as they made their case against the travel ban. While pointing to the lamp of freedom Lady Liberty raises in her right hand, they ignored what she holds in her left. Lady Liberty resolutely holds a tabula ansata in her left hand – a keystone-shaped tablet used to evoke the idea of order and the rule of law in upholding democracy.

This particular order is hardly the raging fire or constitutional crisis it is made out to be. President Trump paused – for 90 days – travel, immigration and refugee acceptance from nations with known jihadist organizations.

The order sets a cap on refugees coming into the country at 50,000 annually, which is the historic average of how many refugees have entered the U.S. from 2001-2015. It does not target our Muslim friends. It does not apply to legal permanent residents or green-card holders. It does, however, empower the secretaries of state and homeland security to make exceptions, which would certainly apply to translators, allies and operatives who have bravely served alongside U.S. forces.

President Trump is right to shine a light on national security. But he should also turn his gaze to the lamp of freedom in Lady Liberty’s right hand.

America must never allow concerns for national security to collide with American compassion in a way that undermines the bedrock of our ideals.

Working with Congress, the administration must establish a system to prevent bad actors from entering our country illegally while creating a compassionate gateway, for those fleeing tyranny or pursuing freedom, to enter America legally.

From our founding, and with but few periods of exception, America has opened its arms in order to provide a second chance at life, to millions of huddled masses who yearned to breathe free. And they breathed. And the nation has prospered.

Rather than pouring gasoline on the angry sparks and fear-driven flames currently dominating the executive order debate we should look to the compassionate lamp of freedom and the rule of law represented in Lady Liberty. The statue was originally, and appropriately, titled, “Liberty Enlightening the World.” That goodness is what has and what will continue to make America great.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging – because principle matters.

Boyd C. Matheson is president of Sutherland Institute, a conservative think tank that advocates for a free market economy, civil society and community-driven solutions.

This post is an edited transcript of Principle Matters, a weekly radio commentary broadcast on several radio stations across the country. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly via iTunes by clicking here