Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Living The "American" Dream

Texas Representative Ron Paul has a pretty standard "kick the immigrants out" piece. It's standard bad argumentation. He strawmans:
We're often reminded that America is a nation of immigrants, implying that we're coldhearted to restrict immigration in any way. But the new Americans reaching our shores in the late 1800s and early 1900s were legal immigrants. In many cases they had no chance of returning home again. They maintained their various ethnic and cultural identities, but they also learned English and embraced their new nationality.

That's true. The immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s were legal immigrants. The immigrants of the 1600s and 1700s, however, weren't. "Legality" isn't going to cover you here.

Again, most of this is pretty boilerplate, and you can get the responses anywhere on the web right now. But I do want to talk about this section:
Birthright citizenship similarly rewards lawbreaking, and must be stopped. As long as illegal immigrants know their children born here will be citizens, the perverse incentive to sneak into this country remains strong. Citizenship involves more than the mere location of one's birth. True citizenship requires cultural connections and an allegiance to the United States. Americans are happy to welcome those who wish to come here and build a better life for themselves, but we rightfully expect immigrants to show loyalty and attempt to assimilate themselves culturally. Birthright citizenship sometimes confers the benefits of being American on people who do not truly embrace America.

For starters, the incentive isn't all that "perverse." Dreaming a better life for your children is "perverse" only to the perverted. Second, I have no idea what this "connection to America" point is all about. Surely, waving foreign flags doesn't obviate an American connection, does it (do you know how many Norwegian flags I see here in Minnesota?)? I really don't get the folks claiming that these protestors embrace their countries of origin instead of America. The fact that people are marching to stay here, to take part in the American dream, is pretty powerful proof that they "embrace" America--more so than many citizens from families with deep roots in America (including those whose ancestors came here "illegally" in the earliest days of European colonialization). If someone sees a march whose message is "cede Arizona back to Mexico," you let me know, but until then I think is pretty clear that these people wish to take part in America and our ideals. Third, why limit this to the children of illegals? If the problem is that location isn't enough, it's about ideology, why not test all children to see if they are sufficiently loyal to America? Won't that be fun? All those times that the right has called liberals unamerican--it wasn't just an ad hominem, it was a setup to strip them of their citizenship! We disagree on many aspects of what the American ideal is, but one thing I think is uncontested: America is a place where families should be able to work to improve the lives of themselves and their children. I dare you to test the immigrant community--legal or not--on their commitment to that ideal. Finally, stripping of birthright citizenship runs into the not-quite-minor problem of the 14th amendment, which reads in relevant part "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." Children born of illegals are "born in the United States", and they are without question "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" (that's why we can prosecute them for crimes), hence, they are citizens. There isn't any way around that. Southern Appeal says there is a "debate" over whether the "such a change would require a constitutional amendment or simply a return to the pre-1900 Supreme Court understanding of birthright citizenship." With all due respect to my originalist friends, if the pre-1900 Supreme Court read the preceding clause in such a way as to preclude children-of-illegals being regarding as citizens, then that only shows those venerable old men to be illiterate. It does not change the plain meaning of the text.

People who want to move to America are not "perverse." They are not invaders. They are not terrorists. They are our greatest asset. I tremble for the day where America is not the destination of choice for those dreaming of a better life. That will be the day I know the sun has set on America's moral dominance. But we'll be locked so tight in our little castle, we might hardly even notice.

UPDATE: This post has what is effectively a part two.

6 comments:

Dennis Raines said...

Heh, we're a culture that appropriates other cultures.

Alligence tests would probably deport a majority of the citezens of the country as most don't even know who their rep in congress is, but could tell you the last 3 winners of American Idol.

flaime said...

I'd say it was pretty obvious that these people, who have been here for 4 or 5 years, yet still can't speak English and wave the flag of their nation of origin instead of the US flag, have no intention of assimilating. And they are just another drain on the US economy, sending billions of dollars to other countries, giving nothing in return to the US but depressed wages.

KnightErrant said...

A few of pre-1900 immigration facts.

1790 Immigration Law - only "free white persons" can become naturalized American citizens. Repealed in 1952.

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act - No Chinese allowed to enter the country. Other Asians, like Japanese, added by 1885. The Chinese Exclusion was justified using the same language now used agains Mexicans, "they drive down wages and take jobs away for Americans."

All ethnic Asian citizens prior to World War II acquired their citizenships by birthright. It was illegal for Asians to naturalize.

N.N. said...

I expect that the "drain" of money sent back to families in Latin America is more than made up for by the additional labor.

That being said, I'm not sure they are our "greatest asset". We are a nation of immigrants, but that doesn't neccesarily make us better exactly. There are plenty of states with relatively low immigration hanging out at the top of the Human Development Index thumbing their noses down at us. I'm definately thinking of those blondies in Iceland as I type this (although I am pleased to note that my eternal rivals in foreigner fearing Japan rank just below us).

As for moral dominance, I'm not so unpatriotic as to deny America's essential awesomeness, but I'm not sure if any nation really dominates in that field. I mean, we could have a contest, but who could possibly judge it. We've already seen how nationally biased umps tried to throw the WBC this year (curse you Japan) and collective moral responsibility is a lot harder to figure out than most of baseball.

Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

blah blah blah

My Wish said...

"Once you choose Hope, anything is possible."