The Corner

Politics & Policy

On Citizenship for Illegal Aliens

In response to Poetry

I disagree with one point of Mark Krikorian’s analysis below: I don’t think citizenship should be handed out willy-nilly, even if we are to have something like an amnesty.

There are all sorts of reasons to immigrate to a new country, legally or illegally, permanently or temporarily. We often hear that the illegals from Mexico and elsewhere simply want to work and to earn a living. Where that’s the case, fine. Working and earning a living are honorable pursuits. But citizenship is about something else. It isn’t about finding a better job or a better house, or even about escaping terrible conditions back home. Citizenship isn’t about what’s been left behind, but about what is here.

The last time we offered an amnesty and a “path to citizenship,” most of the illegals did not seek or secure citizenship. Why? The Washington Post has a very plausible explanation: They didn’t come here looking for citizenship. They came here looking to earn a living.

The United States isn’t an ethno-state of the traditional kind, and it isn’t bound together by any particular religious creed or, given the example in the White House, even by a common language. Most Americans do not have roots going back to the Revolution, and a great many do not have roots going back even so far as the Civil War. (Or Vietnam, for that matter.) What we have is citizenship, the rights and duties of free men and women in a self-governing republic operating under a government of laws, not a government of men. Following the law matters.

So does wanting citizenship — which is not the same as merely wanting the benefits associated with citizenship. If we are going to have an amnesty (and I am not at all convinced we should) then we should limit it to giving out permanent residency, with citizenship possible — possible — on a case-by-case basis.

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