Fully functioning new citizens
By SHERMAN FREDERICK
The term “CIR” is the hot acronym these days. It stands for “Comprehensive Immigration Reform.” When you see the word “comprehensive” in the title of any piece of legislation, put on your skeptic’s glasses.
“Comprehensive” hardly ever means “comprehensive.” It is a euphemism used by one side or the other to cloak what otherwise would be a highly divisive proposal if not for the “comprehensive” designation.
In CIR’s case, “comprehensive” means a form of amnesty for people already in the country illegally. Call them “undocumented” if it makes you feel better. From a policy standpoint, it makes no difference. CIR is designed to provide a special path to citizenship for those millions who broke immigration laws and got away with it.
This shadow population is a problem — on that everyone agrees. Short of some kind of inhumane purge, it can only be fixed by an ironclad resolve to quickly deport people who break immigration laws, a good documented work program and citizenship for those who want it and deserve it.
Should it be a difficult path or an easy path to citizenship? That’s part of the righteous debate.
As a general principle, I say swing the immigration doors wide open. If you’ve never seen a citizenship ceremony in federal court, I recommend you do. There’s nothing that can make a natural-born American feel more proud than watching people not born here who truly covet our citizenship — people of varied nationalities who stood in line, studied and worked hard — take the well-earned oath of citizenship.
There are three concerns moving forward, as I see it.
First, the current administration doesn’t enforce existing immigration laws. What makes us think it will enforce anything that comes out of CIR? This president needs to be sued for his failures on this and several other fronts.
Second, there is a crass political calculation on the part of some in the Democrat party that ought to make everyone uneasy. These lesser politicians seek short-term political gain by trading priceless U.S. citizenship status for blanket amnesty for immigrants they assume are likely Democrat voters. It’s a racist play to be resisted.
And third, whatever comes out of the CIR debate, we must end up with fully functioning citizens.
Here’s a real-life example: Earlier this year, I reported to jury duty in federal court. Me and 90 of my fellow citizens trundled down to the courthouse for an expected six-week trial involving fraud on the Navajo Reservation.
Courthouse officials split us up in three groups of 30. From the “A” group (I was in “C” and never considered), they randomly selected jurors and alternates. As the judge examined the jurors, some were dismissed for obvious conflicts. A few prospective jurors begged to be excused because of family or work hardships. The judge had none of that. One of the obligations of citizenship, the judge said to the whiners, is that work doesn’t trump citizenship.
Then, one prospective juror told the judge he didn’t feel comfortable sitting on the jury because he didn’t understand English well enough to follow the case. As he answered questions in English from the judge, the prospective juror’s Asian-English became more and more broken.
The judge excused him. And that paved the way for others. By the time the jury was set, a handful more were excused for not possessing the English skills required to sit on this jury. Shouldn’t all citizens be able to speak English well enough to sit on a jury?
This is a cautionary tale for the CIR debate. The goal can’t be political. It must be humanitarian and also in the best interest of the country, which is to give work permits to those who want to work, deport those who don’t, and grant citizenship to all who really want it and are prepared to take American citizenship seriously — like speaking English well enough to sit on a jury.
Is that asking too much?
Sherman Frederick is former editor of the Tribune-Herald and former publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
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