Thursday, April 29, 2010

What’s the purpose of national borders, citizenship, and immigration laws?

Devil's Advocate: What's new?

Involuntary Immigrant Adoptee: Well there's been a lot of discussion about the new law that allows dual citizenship for adoptees from South Korea [ROK] and the Arizona law that was just signed which will obligate everyone, especially Latin@s and Asians, to carry identity papers with them that proves that they are authorized to be in the country.

DA: Why is the new ROK law so important? Korean nationals have been naturalized in the U.S. for decades while keeping their South Korean citizenship.

IIA: Those who do that are women or men who already completed their military obligation. Men who had dual citizenship before they did their time in the military had to renounce their ROK citizenship if they were going to enter the country because if they were found to essentially be draft dodgers, they would be compelled to serve and/or penalized for not serving.

DA: So, the obligations of citizenship in the ROK were heavy.

IIA: Yes, ironically, though, orphans were historically barred from serving. This is essentially made them non-citizens because socially and legally men who didn't do their military service were blacklisted occupationally and socially.

DA: Then it's understandable that Koreans would seek American citizenship since the obligations of U.S citizenship are quite few: compulsory registration for the draft for men and jury duty. And it's relatively easy to become an American citizen, isn't it?

IIA: Citizenship is conferred on people in 3 ways. In the U.S. and most of the "New World" (North and South America, Australia, and New Zealand) citizenship does not equate with nationality. If you are born in the countries where jus soli is recognized, you're a citizen. If you're talking about "Old World" nation states, then there's probably a blood requirement, as well. Korea, Japan, and most European countries require that an individual's nation is also congruent with their citizenship. This has caused a lot of debate and problems in countries where large numbers of former colonials immigrated to a country or where there's been a historical community but no citizenship conferred on "foreigners'" for generations. The U.S. uses both jus soli and jus sanguinis, which recognizes children of citizens to be natural born citizens as well. The third way to become a citizen is to be naturalized. The new dual-citizenship law of ROK acknowledges our right to citizenship based on both jus soli and jus sanguinis. It sees that our naturalizations may have been involuntary. We didn't renounce our ROK citizenship intentionally.

DA: So intentionality is important? What about people who are in the United States without authorization? They intentionally disregarded our laws! Why should we confer citizenship on people who have no respect for our laws?

IIA: The difference is intentionally renouncing your citizenship and acquiring one based on the chance of where you were born is big. Which citizenship you happen to be eligible for seems quite arbitrary to me. Borders have changed and people switched from being Mexican citizens to American citizens while remaining in their historical homelands. "They didn't cross the border; the border crossed them." People who have the resources come to the United States to give their children American citizenship at birth but those children often grow up outside the U.S. in their parents' countries and have no real sense of being American. Some adoptees are now granted citizenship based on jus saguinis (that's another topic!) and considered native born but it was chance that had made them Americans. They were simply the ones next up in line for adoption. (Sorry, it wasn't fate.)

As for respect for our laws: Laws that are inhumane and unjust should be disregarded. Laws that allowed slavery, made miscegenation illegal, segregated schools, and excluded the Chinese were all disregarded because it was wrong.

DA: Who decides what's right and what's wrong?

IIA: People of conscious. People reacting to xenophobia, racism, nationalism, and protectionism are clearly not people of conscious.

DA: How do you know who are "people of conscious"?

IIA: Here's a quick test to see where you really are: It's 1882. Do you want to exclude the Chinese? It's 1921. Do you support the law that will bar Southern and Eastern Europeans from entering the country? It's 1965. Do you want to impose quotas on the Western Hemisphere for the first time? If you answered yes to any of these questions you're not answering because you think that "those people just broke the law". You're supporting the law's enactment. You're rationale is flawed.

DA: So the laws that closed the border are wrong in your opinion?

IIA: People who have changed location now are being persecuted because they've been displaced by countries that have free trade agreements (NAFTA but no freedom of movement of the labor force. Why doesn't NAFTA have a freedom of movement for the people in the bloc like the EU does? What reasons are there to enforce a border? Is that separate from the issue of citizenship? Especially when there are so few obligations of citizenship for U.S. citizens?

On the other hand, think about what we give up if we stop the enforcing the borders. The money we'd save significant amounts of money by stopping ineffective patrolling. We would funnel money away from snakeheads and coyotes who may abuse or abandon their charges. We could refocus that money on stopping drug traffickers and arms dealers. The incentive for violence along the border would be lessened. What about terrorism? Well, terrorists have been home-grown or entered the country with visas. Border patrol has never stopped a terrorist before or after a terrorist plot was discovered. And a legalized work force would enable people to demand their rights as workers without fear of deportation. Ready-made, natural labor allies! 

DA: OK, you criticized international adoption and defended illegal immigration. Do you want to talk about gay marriage, abortion, global warming, universal health care, or evolution?

IIA: Uhhhhh......

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