It was wholly a pleasure to get your thoughts about the current debate over illegal immigrants and how to approach the nettlesome challenge they represent to us -- and we to them.
It was good of you to rehearse some classical history for me, explaining how other societies, our forerunners as democracies (
"Many eminent Greeks lived in
Your conclusion: "I do not see why provisions cannot be made for foreigners to work in the U.S. on a long term basis without the promise of citizenship. In fact I believe that illegal entry to the country should permanently bar the possibility of obtaining citizenship."
That way, foreigners with rare skills or whose labor is in demand (like farm laborers, chicken pluckers and others who do jobs it isn't easy to get Americans to do) could contribute to the economy as resident aliens.
All your points are worth considering, Dear Scholar, and, even more, worth rebutting. For this is not
This is a society with an ethos of its own, stemming from a history of its own as a nation of immigrants. To some of us this is still the Puritans' city upon a hill, a light unto the nations.
Your references to Greco-Roman civilization are impressive, but maybe there's a reason America has been called exceptional. For the roots of our ideas go back not only to
If you must look for examples of how societies dealt with the aliens in their midst, you might consider one that shared the ancient world with
"You shall not oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of
Given that spirit, there is no problem in the maze of challenges facing this country and its illegal immigrants that cannot be solved. Where there's good will, there's a way, and we should have found it years ago.
Yes, American citizenship is too valuable a legacy and responsibility to be handed out lightly. There must be requirements: years of residence, education in good citizenship, a clean record, a basic knowledge of the English language or at least the American version of it, the ability to support oneself, a substantial fine if the alien came here illegally, and so methodically on. But the prize is worth the race, or rather the obstacle course.
The Ger Toshav in Jewish law, or resident alien, also had to meet certain minimal requirements to qualify for that status, like giving up idolatry and accepting the law of the land.
My own family provides a kind of capsule history of American immigration: My mother, a country girl from
She managed to get her own mother to this country 20 years later. My grandmother, who would live with us the rest of her life, would arrive
It's a complicated mix, the history of American immigration, just as the future of American immigration doubtless will be. But creating two classes of Americans, foreign workers and real citizens, Americans first- and second-class, has never worked in this country -- as our long and painful experience first with slavery and then with
Please, not again.
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