Citizenship by Luck

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Comprehensive Immigration Reform is upon us. The proposed legislation, in part, creates a legal path to citizenship for the 12 million plus estimated undocumented individuals currently in the United States.

In many debates, in the blog world or in the real physical world, many commentators will speculate on whether these “undocumented”(or illegal as many like to say), deserve the grand reward of U.S. citizenship, especially since they “broke” the law(unauthorized entry, subsequent social security card fraud, etc) and therefore are worthless criminals. But who gave you, or me, the precious privilege of enjoying the legal right to be in the U.S.? Luck, for the most part.

I did nothing to earn my citizenship, nor did anyone who obtained U.S. citizenship through being born here. Well, what about our courageous European ancestors who braved the choppy Atlantic to have a better life? Still, they earned it, not us.

Wait, there is more to this for I have heard this endless times in the context of debating immigration. It goes something like this: “the current illegals are coming here in flagrant violation of our laws; my ancestors came here the right way, they should come here the same way” and “the current illegals do nothing to assimilate, they don’t even speak English!”.

The right way, as people speak so fondly of, was, still is, mostly unavailable to the current immigrants who migrated here without authorization. I would also venture that the bulk of American-born citizens who derive from the waves of European immigrants do not have the documents in hand to prove that their ancestors even came here the “right way”, but that’s besides the point.

It is true that many of the current “undocumented” do not speak English fluently. It is also true that many of the first generation immigrants from Europe did not learn to speak English fluently(from stories related to me from my mom and pops, their grandparents/great aunts/great uncles did not really speak English). Interestingly, the children of first generation immigrants, then and now, assimilate with astonishing ease. It is not too uncommon to find Hispanics/Latinos, whose parents were foreign born, to speak no Spanish at all.

In the context of any upcoming debate related to Immigration reform, if you hear the “but our ancestors came here legally” sentence, know this: It is a nostalgic defense mechanism, with little to no actual merit, used to avoid the daunting challenge of rationally reforming a profoundly ineffective, damaged system.

Let’s do it.

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One Response to “Citizenship by Luck”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Ellis Island, is marked with immigrants that came to America to start a new life during the War torn Europe. After WW2 the immigration of all ethinicities who travelled to America to start a new life, is now in the millions, due to generations and generations of the offspring of our parents and grand-parents and great grand parents as well, who never spoke a word of English, and yet their lives were combined with the ecstatic thinking that America will bring them and their generation and off spring wealth, and happiness, this my friends, was how America was built, and should be looked at as the greatest country in the World welcoming immigrantion to our country, this day and age, as a wonderful example to the world and their outlook which does not match the good old USA, anywhere….

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