Q. What are they thinking?
A. I don't think they are thinking. They can't help themselves. The whole American Dream / Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor / Nation of Immigrants / Statue of Liberty thing has just become a Pavlovian reflex.
By the way, when did "American Dream" become a euphemism for "immigrant/ethnic?"
"American dream" didn't mean that when I was a kid. The classic literary example from my youth is the title of Hunter S. Thompson's 1971 book: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. Although Thompson is accompanied by his 300-pound Samoan attorney, Dr. Gonzo (actually, the radical Chicano activist Oscar Zeta Acosta, born in El Paso in 1935, disappeared in Mexico in 1974), Dr. Gonzo is derisive of Raoul Duke's obsession with finding the American Dream, a concept that he doesn't identify with:
Gonzo: : We won't make the nut unless we have unlimited credit.
Duke: Jesus Christ, we will, man. You Samoans are all the same. You have no faith in the essential decency of the white man's culture. ...
Gonzo: "But let's forget that b------- about the American Dream," he said. "The important thing is the Great Samoan Dream."
Update: Just as the NYT later changed their Tsarnaev's "battered American Dream" headline, The Washington Post has now changed their "Ariel Castro's American dream" headline to the more inoffensive (if inelegant):
Ariel Castro, Cleveland suspect, has a dark past that foreshadowed crimes he’s now accused of
But the URL still gives away the hilarious original headline:
So, at least there is some shame left that leads morning shift editors to try to cover their colleagues' tracks. But these events have been highly revealing of the Hive Mind.