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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Birthright to American Citizenship

George Will's Washington Post column on immigration published on March 28, 2010 sincerely irritated me. I sent him an e-mail to complain. In my opinion, his commentary raised the hideous specter of ethnic purist elitism as the criteria for being an American citizen. He may also be challenging my citizenship.

Will raised questions about applying birthright as a qualifier for American citizenship. In other words, by an interpretation of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment to US Constitution, children born in the US to illegal immigrants are American citizens. Will calls for a reconsideration of this privilege by looking at the intention of the amendment's language.

Will says birthright citizenship might be a misinterpretation of the 14th amendment to the US Constitution which reads: "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." Will writes, "From these words has flowed the practice of conferring citizenship on children born here to illegal immigrants." He says "...ratifiers (of the US Constitution 14th amendment) could not have intended birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants because in 1868 there were and never had been any illegal immigrants because no law ever had restricted immigration".

But Will raises a hypothetical situation because we don't know what the ratifiers were thinking. Surely, ratifiers knew what they meant when they wrote the amendment. It means what it says it means.

All of my grandparents were immigrants. They raised children in America before becoming American citizens. In fact, I'm not entirely sure if my Ukrainian grandparents ever became citizens, but they must have done something to legalize their residency during their American journey. My Italian grandparents could hardly wait to become citizens. They protected their citizenship paperwork to prove their legality. As a result of my grandparents being immigrants, my parents were born to illegal immigrants. My mother was born in Monesson Pennsylvania prior to my grandparents becoming naturalized. My father was born in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania in 1908, which made him an American citizen by birth as well.

I believe Will is calling into question my citizenship. If his twisted logic takes hold, he could be saying my grandparents should not have called their children American citizens. Carrying this logic forward could infer that I should not be an American citizen.

George Will is loosing his conservative mind! By raising the specter of ethnic purism as a requirement for citizenship, he may even be calling into question his own citizenship. This is dangerous thinking and totally abhorrent to my understanding of citizenship. Being an American citizen is an honor because my immigrant grandparents worked their fingers to the bone to insure their children had citizenship status. Citizenship is not a birthright but an honor my grandparents worked hard for. God help us if we become a nation of entitled citizens! It will lead us to becoming a nation of DNA specimens - where did your DNA originate?

Will owes me and my grandparents an apology for his sickening attention getting column written to stir up more mistrust about the intentions of hard working illegal immigrants. Immigration reform is one thing. Cultural elitism has no place in this debate. Constitutional purists should writhe at changing the intention of the Constitution to fit their own liking. If conservatives like Will want to tinker with the US Constitution, then I vote to word-smith the right to bear arms protected in the 2nd Amendment as well.

Anti-immigration fanatics should first examine their own genealogies before arbitrarily questioning the interpretation of the Constitution's 14th amendment.



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