As always, I like to establish a baseline. So lets define what citizenship is and our rights as citizens.
Citizenship in the United States is a status given to a legal member of the United States. It entails specific rights, duties, privileges and economic benefits including federal assistance. People become citizens automatically by being born in the United States, known as birthright citizenship, or by a process known as naturalization. U.S. citizenship is not defined by an obligation to participate in politics, pay taxes, obey laws, serve in the military, or vote, although citizens can participate in politics or join the military if they choose, but rather citizenship is a legal marker identifying a person as having a bundle of rights including the right to live and work in the United States as well as be a customer of government services. Most persons who undergo naturalization do so to get permission to live and work in the nation legally.
Adult citizens of the United States who are residents of one of the 50 states have the right to participate fully in the political system of the United States, as well as their state and local governments (with most states having restrictions on voting by persons convicted of felonies, and a federal constitutional prohibition on naturalized persons running for President and Vice President of the United States), to be represented and protected abroad by the United States (through U.S. embassies and consulates), and to reside in the United States and certain territories without any immigration requirements.
So that’s the baseline. This all meant something at one time, now I am not so sure. There was a time when I was very proud and sure of my citizenship, but now I see US Citizenship as nothing more than a watered down label. And how can I not, with all that is going on around us.
Take a look at the case of Plyler v. Doe (1982)
The Supreme Court of the United States struck down a state statute denying funding for education to children who were illegal immigrants. Revisions to education laws in Texas in 1975 withheld state funds for educating children who had not been legally admitted to the United States and authorized local school districts to deny enrollment to such students. A 5-to-4 majority of the Supreme Court found that this policy was in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, as illegal immigrant children are people “in any ordinary sense of the term”, and therefore had protection from discrimination unless a substantial state interest could be shown to justify it. The court majority found that the Texas law was “directed against children, and impose[d] its discriminatory burden on the basis of a legal characteristic over which children can have little control” — namely, the fact of their having been brought illegally into the United States by their parents. The majority also observed that denying the children in question a proper education would likely contribute to “the creation and perpetuation of a subclass of illiterates within our boundaries, surely adding to the problems and costs of unemployment, welfare, and crime.” The majority refused to accept that any substantial state interest would be served by discrimination on this basis, and it struck down the Texas law.
What does the term illegal immigrants mean anyway? Aren’t these people here illegally? Isn’t that why we label them as such? Really shouldn’t these people have been sent back to their respective countries? Does that sound cold and heartless? maybe.. However, if we give these people the label of illegal immigrants and do nothing to encourage them to achieve proper citizenship, haven’t we watered down the meaning of illegal immigrants? And, really isn’t that same principle being applied to the term US Citizenship?
Hey I am all for helping people, I’ll give as much as I can! However, in this case, there has to be some vested interest by the party receiving the help. Isn’t that just common sense? Don’t we want these people to be as proud as we are to be a US Citizen? Isn’t it that sense of pride that makes you stand with your fellow American in good and bad times?