Saturday, August 21, 2010

Our undocumented heritage

Scholars Paul Finkelman, James Anaya and Gabriel J. Chin discuss birthright citizenship on Huffington Post:
Under the Fourteenth Amendment, children born in the United States are citizens, even if their parents are not. Inspired by Arizona's new (and partially suspended) law regulating unauthorized immigration, Senators Mitch McConnell, John Kyl, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Representative John Boehner, and other Republican leaders have proposed considering amending the Constitution to deny citizenship to children born in the United States but whose parents are undocumented.

As law professors we oppose the proposed change, not only for historical and legal reasons, but also on deeply personal grounds. We are the face of the children of illegal aliens, people who are not just abstractions but parts of the human mosaic of the American nation. As it happens, all three of us are the grandchildren of individuals who entered the United States without authorization. From our perspective, the proposal is unwise.
They go on to tell the stories of the way their grandparents came to the United States. Continue reading here.

I can add to this history. My fraternal grandmother came to the United States from Poland, and later worked for many years in the papers mills in western Massachusetts. When she arrived at Ellis Island, she was a teenager traveling alone. She pretended to be a member of a family arriving legally, and gave a false name. If she had not done that, she most certainly would have been excluded from the country as likely to be unable to support herself. She and my grandfather had four children, all of whom served in the U.S. military. Her grandchildren and great grandchildren include school teachers, a nurse, a veterinarian, a former chef, and even a hydro-geologist. The stories of our families show that the history of "illegal aliens" is an essential part of the story of America.

Share your story.


Paul Finkelman said...

Since posting this on Huffington I have heard from an amazing number of scholars who all have undocumented aliens in their family history. People who jumped ship in New York, lied about their national origins to get in undre a quoata, or just snuck into the US. So far I have people from Hungary, Armenia, Ireland, Poland, and Russia. I am begining to think we are not only a nation of immigrants but of illegal immigrants.

Paul Finkelman

Shag from Brookline said...

Was any formal amnesty ever granted to these illegal immigrants? If not, perhaps it wasn't deemed necessary. Their issue should not be treated as trespassers - ab initio or otherwise - here in America. They have served this nation well.