The next administration and Congress need to reach a compromise on immigration. The continuing battle on the status of illegal immigrants is leading to enormous political divisions and fueling the identity politics of multiculturalism on the both the left and right. For me the compromise must reflect four imperatives. First, it should recognize the reality that we cannot deport millions of people without turning ourselves into a temporary police state—harmful not only to illegal aliens but to our citizens. Second, it should make sure there is a substantial penalty for those who broke the law. Third, the compromise must secure the border of the United States against further such immigration on a massive scale and contain a trigger to verify that security has taken place before those who broke the law benefit from the compromise. Fourth, the compromise should make it easier for highly skilled immigrants to come to the nation, because welcoming more such immigrants will benefit America, not least by continuing our tradition of assimilating talent from overseas.
First, ultimately the compromise will have to provide a legalized status to many aliens who entered illegally so long as they have not violated other laws. Catching all those who have come here illegally is impractical. It would also require a law enforcement presence so heavy as to affect adversely many law abiding citizens, particularly those who share the ethnicity of immigrants who have come here illegally. Moreover, since many of those who came here illegally have had children born here who are citizens by virtue of the 14th amendment, mass deportations would result in the tearing asunder of children from parents.
Second, the legislation should make it clear that coming into America illegally was wrong. Fines will not prove adequate to make this point either expressively or practically.
Editor’s note: This Fourth of July oration was first delivered by G. M. Curtis III on July 1, 1989 in Lone Mountain, Montana, for a conference on American citizenship.
As an American historian and as an American citizen who looks forward to the 21st. century, I place great stock in John Adams’s early 19th. century exhortation to future generations that they remember and celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Technically speaking, I suppose that we are jumping the gun by about one day, since the Continental Congress first agreed to the Declaration on the 2nd. of July 1776. Actually, the past five days in one way or another has represented a remembrance and a reconsideration of many of those values and beliefs that John Adams cherished enough to tender the ultimate sacrifice: his life and property. It is altogether fitting and proper, then, as my historical footnote for these discussions and as a remembrance of the Declaration of Independence, to return to the first principles therein contained, principles that not only retain their merit today, but more importantly, offer us hope for the years to come.
Confirming ordinary experience, the polls leave no doubt that the majority of Americans now regard the U.S. government as more a threat than a protector, acting beyond law or popular control. How government in America became “them” rather than “us,” what government’s loss of legitimacy means for this country, and whether lost confidence and legitimacy may be reclaimed any more than virginity, are questions we must ponder.
Many Americans believe that the Fourteenth Amendment created “birthright citizenship.” By this logic, any person born on U.S. soil is an American citizen. That is an interpretation, and not the most natural one, of the phrase, “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.”
The key question is what does the phrase, “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” mean? The prevailing view, at least in our political class, and among activists, is that it means subject to any jurisdiction. Hence most Americans, even lawyers who ought to know better, think that the children of people who came to America on tourist visas, or no visa at all, are American citizens.
Marriage and family life are not what they once were and this “change” should continue with the embrace of further reforms in the direction of disestablishing or de-institutionalizing both institutions. The winds of change are blowing, and law, as pragmatic adaption to changing circumstances, must adapt, reflect and foster these changes. This is the core theoretical argument of Mark E. Brandon’s States of Union, a legal realist contribution to the history of marriage in law and public consciousness. The story Brandon, a Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University Law School, tells parallels those seen in other fine histories of marriage and…