Monday, June 19, 2006

Another Argument for Birthright Citizenship

Maha writes the kinds of essays I wish I could write if I didn't have kids interrupting me every few minutes (for instance, did you know that sometimes a and o have the same sound, like in barn and loss? My son just interrupted to tell me that.)

In GOP: The Cheap Labor Party she explains excellently the stance nearly all the Dems and liberals I know about have regarding immigration. In fact, I expressed pretty much that same sentiment to my husband in the car the other day. Almost no one is pro-illegal immigration; we disagree on how to stop it. Republicans favor a band-aid which won't help the problem, but which will make businesses more short-term money. Democrats want to treat the illness rather than just the symptom.

But in making the argument about why a "guest worker" program won't work I found a good example of why people born in the United States, regardless of the nationality of their parents, should have birthright citizenship (link goes to essay wherein I make the argument in favor of it) if they wish to claim it.
From an editorial in The New Republic, April 17 issue:
… the workers, while remaining in those European countries, never became of them. Consider Germany, for instance, where more than two million Muslims of Turkish origin–whose families came as guest workers four decades ago–live today. They live in Germany not as Germans, but in a strange sort of nationless limbo–afforded certain benefits of citizenship (such as health care) but denied the privilege of actually being citizens. Which, of course, denies them any incentive to assimilate to their new country. The prospect of such a thing happening in the United States with Mexican guest workers is only too real.

Colin Nickerson wrote for the Boston Globe (April 19),

For decades, there were no efforts to integrate the newcomers. They were entitled to social benefits, but not citizenship. Their children could attend schools, but little effort was made to give them language skills. Far from a melting pot, Europe in the post-World War II era became the realm of ‘’parallel societies,” in which native and immigrant populations occupied the same countries but shared little common ground.

Now, the presence of millions of largely unassimilated newcomers, coupled with terrorist attacks in London and Madrid, has triggered furious debates in Europe over national identity and the future of immigration.

Europeans thought the guest worker programs would provide needed labor without having to assimilate non-European workers. It didn’t work that way, and the non-assimilated ethnic minorities are creating huge social problems — the same kind of problems that righties fear from illegal immigrants.

In the United States, which has birthright citizenship, the third generation of immigrants are generally well-assimilated because they have status, opportunity to participate, and a stake in the government.

A comedian on Last Comic Standing made a joke about why there hasn't been another terrorist attack. The terrorists have been hiding in America so long they've become lazy like us: "Ahmad, you were supposed to be at the bombing at 9:30, what happened?" "Dude, can I call you back? I'm watching the Tivo of Entourage." Sadly, there may actually be some truth to that.

The 314-page report, 'From Generation to Generation,' found that, despite their higher rates of poverty, ''children in immigrant families appear to experience better health and adjustment than do children in US-born families.''

The authors of the report - which was based on a panel review of dozens of studies between 1900 and 1990 - discovered that as second and third-generation immigrants assimilate into U.S. society, their health, actually declines.


And adolescents in immigrant families reported fewer neurological problems, obesity, asthma, early sexual activity, smoking, alcohol-consumption, drug use, delinquency and the use of violence compared with their counterparts among US-born parents, according to the report.

They assimilate if they're allowed to.

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