Monday, June 07, 2010

Discerning Motive

It is undoubtedly true that some of the people decrying illegal immigration are racists; they see it as a problem because most of the illegals are Latino and either they hate Latinos or are afraid that the increasing numbers of them will cause whites to become a minority race. Some people, however, see illegal immigration as a problem because of the depressing effect that it has on wages and other actual financial problems it imposes on society.

I don’t know what can be done about that, because nowadays if you oppose illegal immigration at all it isn’t going to matter what your actual reasons are; you are going to be labeled as a racist. It is going to be assumed that you do not oppose the illegal entry of white people, merely that you oppose the illegal entry of people with dark skin.

Witness today’s editorial in the New York Times by Timothy Egan regarding current discussion of the fourteenth amendment, which awards citizenship to anyone born on American soil, and those who favor changing the part of it which includes doing so to children born to people who are here illegally.

This time, they want to exclude an ethnic minority, rather than include one. Their target is Latinos, particularly babies born to illegal immigrants who become citizens by their birth.

Actually, I have not heard anyone suggest that babies born to Latinas who are here illegally should be denied citizenship. I have heard it suggested that babies born to anyone who is here illegally should be.

Of course, race has nothing to do with it, these situational constitutionalists say. But you have to wonder if their concern over citizens-by-birth would have extended to big Irish Catholic families of 100 years ago, some of whom came to the United States through illegal border crossings from Canada.

Would he believe the proponents of the suggested change if they told him that they would extend their ban to Irish Catholics who were here illegally? He assumes that they would not do so, and implies that in his editorial, but he has absolutely no basis for that suggestion other than his assumption that the basis for their desire to make the change is racist in its motivation.

And perhaps, at least for some, it is. For some it may be that the law as it stands creates serious legal complexity in dealing with the status of the parents who are here illegally, in finding a way to avoid being forced to let that illegality stand. Unless they state it openly, only the people who are making the suggestion know what their motivation is for making it.

Unless you're Timothy Egan; he knows they are all racists.

Update: afterthought
No, I dont have any real position on the issue itself. I don't really favor such a change, and would probably oppose it if it were proposed.

The 14th did not consider the legality of the parent's presence at birth for the simple reason that when it was passed we did not regulate immigration and there was no such thing as an "illegal immigrant."

I can see a certain logic to granting citizenship only to babies born to persons here legally, but aspiration to freedom offered by this nation is so basic that I don't favor reducing the opportunity for it. I also see danger in creating a mechanism where citizenship can be questioned later in life.

It's not an easy point, but for me it's an issue best left alone.

Update 2: another afterthought
Wow, that is the really huge pitfall, isn't it? As an adult you get challenged with, "You aren't really a citizen, because your mother was not legally in the country when you were born." The burden of proof then devolves upon the person to prove the legality of his parent's entry, say, fifty years earlier to verify his own right to vote, etc.

Turns out I do have a position; no way do we want to go down that road.

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