The Immigration Debate and Following the Law Argument
On Wednesday I published a guest blog from Barbara Carrasco where she opined about immigration and the difference between legal and illegal immigrants. I hate using the word “illegal” but she used it and it is her right to do so. I promised you that I would have a rebuttal to her guest post today. Immigration, as many of you know, is a very complex issue that cannot be addressed by focusing on one specific item. However, the underlining fact to all sides of the debate is the process of immigration. I believe we can all agree that the process is the fundamental element to the discussion about immigration, except for those that want to shut off immigration completely.
Barbara Carrasco shared with us her point of view between the differences between those who follow the process and those that do not. If we strip away everything but the notion of process, I am sure we can all agree on many aspects of her point of view. In essence, I believe that Carrasco is arguing that immigrants should respect the United States and if need be, to come to her defense. I for one agree on that. However, where I believe that the majority of the discussions diverge away from is in the process.
I will accept that if someone wants to immigrate to the United States, and to any other country for that matter, that they should follow an established process to complete the move to a new country. Even if that involves fees and background checks. I also have no problem with excluding those that have criminal backgrounds or ill-intent towards the United States. I also have no problem with limiting or excluding immigrants from the benefits that the United States offers its citizens. I disagree that limits on access to some benefits are necessary for many reasons that are beyond my post’s focus today. However, I’ll leave that issue for a future post. For now, let me accept that limiting access to benefits for new immigrants is something I am willing to accept.
As a reminder, I am an immigrant and I went through the immigration process for many years. As a matter of fact, I still have to complete certain steps on a regular basis, so I am still navigating the process, if you will. I am also a proud citizen of Mexico but live in the United States. To many of you that doesn’t make sense. How can I live, legally, in the United States and yet retain my Mexican citizenship? To add more to your confusion, I am also a legal holder of a conceal carry permit allowing me to legally carry a concealed weapon on my person. To some of you that doesn’t make sense. As if that is not enough to cause you pause, I have been legally able to become a US citizen for some years now, yet I have chosen not to.
No, it has nothing to do with obligations such as taxes or defending the country against foreign aggressors. I pay taxes just like all US citizens. I will also raise arms to defend the United States against foreign aggressors by the mere fact that I have chosen to make a home in the United States and I have a family that I love very much who are living in the country. Yet, I have chosen to not become a US citizen.
That decision means that I have the same obligations as all of you US citizens except for the right to vote and putting myself in a position that I can be kicked out of the country for criminal acts. I have made this decision for the simple fact that I do not want to renounce my Mexican citizenship.
For those that will argue that I have not assimilated into the US culture and system I will point you to my business success, my language and my blogging about US politics. I speak the language, I dress the part and eat the food. Yet, I do not want to renounce my Mexican citizenship. Why?
The answer is rather simple, I respect my country, including its many faults and its wonderful successes. I respect my roots and those of my ancestors. Most importantly, I can hold dear my country of birth and yet contribute to the country I have chosen to live in. Neither are in contradiction with the other.
This brings us squarely to dual citizenship. Mexico, officially recognizes dual citizenship. But, and this is important, the United States does not officially recognize dual citizenship. But, what about the many US citizens that claim dual citizenship, both US citizenship and another country’s citizenship?
United States law does not directly address dual nationality nor does it require someone to choose one citizenship over another. However, the US State Department has taken the official position that “the U.S. Government recognizes that dual nationality exists but does not encourage it as a matter of policy because of problems it may cause.”
On one hand, US law does not specifically require a US citizen to choose one allegiance over another but it does not encourage it either. So what does that have to do with me?
As an immigrant I have to take an oath to become a US citizen.
The oath starts out; “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen”. There are three exceptions to the requirement to taking the oath. Two are about the use of “God” and the other is about exceptions to bearing arms for the United States. There is no exception to the oath about renouncing my citizenship.
In other words, if I take the oath I am renouncing my Mexican citizenship.
I have been told on a number of occasion, it’s just words, no one is telling you to return your Mexican passport. I have also been told numerous times that there are dual nationals who hold both US and Mexican citizenship.
As I wrote previously, I am fully cognizant that they are just words but what does it say about me “following the law” when I choose to pretend that an oath is “just words”?
That is the fundamental reality to the immigration problem that no one wants to address. It is a broken system that discourages following the process and highly encourages pretending it is “just words”. The truth is that the immigration system of the United States is so broken that it is near impossible to follow the process. Almost everyone, if not everyone, is forced to game the process for a favorable outcome.
Donald Trump’s wife bypassed the process by simply marrying Donald Trump, who conveyed his US citizenship to her. To those that argue that the process allows US citizenship through marriage, I then ask you, should all immigrants consider getting married for a green card? Donald Trump’s grandfather lost his Germany citizenship because he immigrated to the United States in order to avoid German military service. Let that sink in for a moment because that is a poignant example of immigrating for the wrong reasons and a clear example of losing the citizenship of his birth country. Trump’s grandfather broke the law. That is the hypocrisy within Trump. Even Ted Cruz’ father gamed the system, not once but twice by first entering the US as a refugee, then abandoning the country before completing the process and becoming a Canadian citizen. It wasn’t until recently that the elder Cruz became a citizen of the United States, many years after Ted Cruz had been born. Ted Cruz, himself wasn’t born in the United States. He acquired citizenship through his mother’s citizenship. Cruz and Trump exemplify the sad fact that the immigration debate is political sensationalism because no politician wants to truly address the fundamental problem – the process.
Lawyers will tell you, leave this blank, don’t write that or get someone to write a letter stating something, whether true or not, just to get through the process. That is the undeniable fact.
I went through a twelve-year process that I started and abandoned several times, even though I was frequently in the United States. I am still navigating the system today, although I am legally in the United States.
I speak the language and I am sure I can pass the history test with a better passing grade than most US citizens, yet I still choose to not become a US citizen because of a few words that most everyone ignores.
I realize that some of you would rather focus on arguing about controlling the border first and then fixing the broken system. I do not believe that is neither fair nor appropriate because many individuals are currently in the midst of a decades-old process that they have invested many tears, years and money into and others have given up in despair but are still in the US.
Some of you will not agree with me about the fairness of deporting thousands caught up in a broken system. However, the fact remains that the system is broken and it needs to be fixed.
I choose that it be fixed first and then hold individuals accountable. To me that is the fairest thing to do. I know, I have first-hand knowledge of the process and I am one of the luckiest ones because I have not had to sacrifice my dignity nor my life to get to the point that I am at today.
This is true for any immigrant and it is why I get so angry at other immigrants for denouncing their brethren just because they happened to achieve what the others are trying to as well. Any immigrant that has traversed the immigration process since 1875 has had to navigate a system that was designed to encourage finding ways around it. This is because the Page Act of 1875 is the first time the United States started to segregate immigrants based on ethnicity. The Page Act was created to discourage Asian immigration. In 1924, the Johnson Act imposed numerical limits on immigration and it established a quota system based on nationality. That was followed by the National Origins Formula, also in 1924 that imposed official quota systems on certain countries.
However, the problem is not the laws, although many of us disagree with them. The actual problem is the “it’s just words” mentality that makes it impossible to properly navigate the process. How is it fair to hold someone accountable to a system that, itself, is so broken that it encourages ignoring it because, it “is just words.” In other words, it rewards undocumented status over the documented status. That is true for all of the immigration laws that have followed since.
Thus, it is the process that encourages immigration via loopholes or through other means rather than through the established legal framework. Because of this, it is my experience and my belief that a serious discussion and solution to the immigration process involves accepting that the system is broken, that it encourages bypassing it and that a solution to those caught in the web of the broken system today be afforded a fair and equitable solution before demanding that they follow the process.
For me, that is the only solution to the problem of immigration today.