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Sins of the Father

All of our people all over the country-except the pure-blooded Indians-are immigrants or descendants of immigrants, including even those who came over here on the Mayflower.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Campaign speech November 4, 1944

It is too late for Native Americans (or Indians as they were then called) to enact anti-immigration laws although they have probably wished many times over the last four hundred years that they had thought of it as the earlier, uninvited and, therefore, presumptively illegal, immigrants were arriving. . They probably view current events with a mixture of regret that they didn’t think of it, and amazement at how descendants of those uninvited and illegal immigrants are treating the current crop. It was brought to mind because of the news that nearly 20 state legislature are eagerly awaiting the start of the 2011 sessions in order to mimic Arizona’s assault on the illegal immigrant.

Arizona’s assault came in the form of enactment of what might be called the “Look and Stop” statute. Among other things, it gives police the right to ask anyone whom they stop to provide proof of legal residency. Absent proof, the illegal immigrant is deported. Arizona was not the first to attack the problems posed by illegal immigrants. In 2006 the citizens of Hazelton, Pennsylvania attacked illegal immigration in a creative way although one that was ultimately thrown out by a federal court.

Hazelton’s 2006 ordinance provided that a landlord would be fined $1000 for each illegal immigrant renting property from the landlord. Any business that employed illegal immigrants would lose its business license. Merchants were prohibited from selling merchandise to illegal aliens thus depriving the aliens of the right to buy, for example, groceries. All city documents were to be in English thus, among other salutary results, removing the need for the annoying telephone message that asks the caller to indicate by pressing a number on the keypad, what language is preferred. Hazelton’s ordinance was ultimately struck down by a federal court but those wanting to put illegal immigrants in their place (which is any place but here) have continued their efforts and two highly creative solutions to this problem have made news in recent days-one in Arizona and one in Nebraska.

Arizona’s newest proposal is brought to us courtesy of Russell Pierce, the author of the Look and Stop statute. Believing that the sins of the father should be visited on the children, he has proposed a law that would strip citizenship from children born to illegal immigrants in the United States. The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution has a slightly different take on the rights of those children. It provides that: “All persons, born . . . in the United States. . . are citizens of the United States . . . .” It “bars any state from making or enforcing any law that takes away the privileges or immunities of citizens.” Mr. Pierce is not impressed. Explaining his proposal he says that: “granting citizenship to anyone born in the U.S. encourages illegal immigrants to come to this country to give birth and secure full rights for their children.”

Mr. Pierce’s analysis differs somewhat from Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s analysis. On June 25 she said: “I believe today, under the circumstances that we’re facing, that the majority of the illegal trespassers that are coming into the state of Arizona are under the direction and control of organized drug cartels and they are bringing drugs in. There’s strong information to us that they come as illegal people wanting to come to work. Then they are accosted and they become subjects of the drug cartel.” Of course, it is possible that both are correct. Running drugs does not preclude procreation.

For activity on a more local level we turn to Fremont, Nebraska. In a special election held on June 21st, the good citizens of that town adopted an ordinance that will certainly rid it of illegal immigrants, assuming it survives expected court challenges.

The ordinance provides that anyone wanting to rent a place to live must first go to city hall and obtain a license that permits the prospective tenant to rent. The official responsible for issuing the license will determine the residency status of the applicant and if the resident is illegal, no license will issue. Although it is hard to imagine illegal immigrants being able to work in Fremont since they will be denied housing, on the off chance that some of them decide to commute, the ordinance says employers must use the federal E-verify database to ensure the prospective employee is a legal resident.

Contemplating the foregoing, native Americans may well, when in pensive mood, wonder how different their lives might have been had they adopted these progressive approaches to keeping out and ridding themselves of the unwanted back in the 1600s.

CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI can be e-mailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu.

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