Monday, June 18, 2012
South Bay Student on Obama's Immigration Shift
"I worked really, really hard. I'm still an American. Whatever anybody tells me, I am still an American. It's who I feel I am." Francisco Hernandez, "South Bay student at Harvard wary but hopeful about change in policy", Daily Breeze, June 16, 2012
Citizenship is not about feeling, it's more than about facts, it's about respect for the law, understanding of one's rights and responsibilities expressed in a political culture, it's about respect for the traditions and legacies of a country which prizes individual liberty, once again a factor greater than one's mood or experience.
How hard an individual works is not a criterion for citizenship. We do not dismiss or disdain individuals in this country because they are mentally retarded or immature or physically handicapped in some way. Men of low estate or meager means are no less citizens, either, just because they are unemployed. Even those derelicts who refuse to work and beg on the street are deemed citizens not because of what they do, but because of who they are.
Citizenship is a matter of identity, not activity, not sentiment. It does not depend on what we have done -- aside from those who demonstrated competence and respect for the laws and traditions of this land to become naturalized citizens.
We have laws in order to frustrate discretion and ambition enslaved to selfish limited ends at the expense of everyone's rights and liberties. We have laws so that feelings do not trump facts, so that fads do not frustrate a culture of respect and predictability.
It makes no difference whatsoever if the millions of illegal immigrants in this country "feel" that they are Americans. Citizenship has nothing to do with sentimental fiat, but legislative force. Whether by birth or naturalization, a citizen is established, not something adopted as a matter of mind or mood.
It will be a sad day when we respect a man's mood as the true determinant of citizenship. What argument will remain when men and women, offended by the policies and programs of the state, decide that they hate this country, have no desire to call themselves Americans, and then take to the streets breaking the law with impunity, having no sense of remorse or regret because at that moment they did not "feel" like Americans? The culture of sentiment has burgeoned to the point where we refuse to recognize political realities beyond our five senses. This nation, any nation, is founded on more than servile, myopic egoism. Civilization is a matter of tolerating what we do not like, yet agreeing on the single set of expectations, by law or tradition, which indicate, nay dictate the expectations of free people engaging in free commerce.
To be an American is far more than how you feel, or what others say to you, or what a large mass of protesters may claim in the middle of Downtown Los Angeles. No one in this country should diminish the sacrifices, the dangers, the hard work of those citizens who obeyed the law, paid the required fees, learned the laws, customs, and language of this country in order to enjoy and participate in this free Republic.
To be an American has everything to do with the rule of law, not the color of one's skin or the contour of one's political affiliations. To be an American is to honor a standard of diverse respect between public and private institutions, to engage a government which is not based on what the government can do for me, or even what I must do for the state, but a concerted comity in which natural rights have a divine basis -- "endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights".
"I worked really, really hard. . .I'm still an American."
This young man is not an America. He is an illegal immigrant, a status which he did not choose, but an illegal immigrant, nonetheless. The voters, the legislators, the President of the United States will do a greater disservice to ourselves and to the young people in Mr. Hernandez' predicament if they continue to enable incremental or blanket amnesties which hinder the rule of law, erode the political culture of individual liberty, and raise sentiment about sound governance.