Monday, January 27, 2014

Citizenship or Serfdom?

Conservative blogger Peter Spiliakos has posted an interesting response to some recent Republican proposals regarding immigration. The title of his short post, "Making Immigration a Little More Serfy," says it all in its title. It is certainly well worth reading
The context for Spiliakos' response is a suggestion by Michigan's Governor Rick Snyder that the Federal Government allocate city-based visas for highly skilled immigrants willing to settle in Detroit. He sees this as part of pattern on the right of "suggesting rules that inhibit the ability of immigrants to participate fully in American civic life." Another example he cites is Republican Kevin McCarthy's call for "amnesty-but-not-citizenship for illegal immigrants."
Spiliakos himself favors what he calls "limited amnesty." I'm not sure how limited or limited to whom, so I cannot comment on that. (Personally, I favor as broad and open an immigration policy as possible.) But I do applaud his strong support for birthright citizenship and the principle "that those who settle here should be treated as prospective citizens rather than as human raw material for employers. ... our immigration policy should involve the most speedy and complete integration of immigrants into American civic life. No servant classes here."
I don't know all the details of Governor Snyder's proposal, but at least in principle and for a limited term of time, I think it might have merit. After all, we do grant visas for people on the assumption they are to be employed in a particular firm, for example. I see nothing wrong with granting a visa on the condition that one would live in a particular place and put one's skills to use there for a determined period of time - say 5 years - after which, of course, one would be free to move anywhere in the U.S. But on the larger issue I fully endorse Spiliakos' concern. It is rather transparently obvious that those who don't want to include a path to citizenship in immigration reform really don't want to increase the pool of voters who are not likely to be attracted to a particular party's distinctive brand of politics. On the other hand, they are quite content to have people working here without the benefits of citizenship. I agree with Spiliakos. There is no room for a class of serfs in our society.
What made America great - more than anything else -  was immigration. An American future that excludes immigrants from full integration into American life would simply not be America anymore.


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