None of Us Deserve Citizenship

On what moral grounds can we deny others rights, privileges and opportunities that we did not earn ourselves?

Comments: 227

  1. Arguing the legality of our ancestors’ immigration is a moot point for many of us. Before 1875 there were no immigration laws. Anybody could come to America if they could get here. My Anglo ancestors had been on this land for 250 years by the time the first immigration law was passed. My Native Piscataway ancestors had been here for thousands of years. The issue is not whether immigration is legal or not, it is whether or not poor people can migrate in search for better living opportunities. Other than African Americans, who were forcibly brought here as slaves, everybody came in search of better opportunities. Even the natives, when they crossed the Bering Strait thousands of years ago. In our current global economy goods are freely moved around the world, crossing boundaries that were previously closed. But people are not allowed to cross those borders. Goods and labor are related. Migrant peoples are looking for jobs. They are not criminals, they are following a pattern of movement that is basic to human need and essential to our global health. Stoking fear of immigrant peoples by assuring ourselves that WE are the deserving people (legal, hard-working) and they are the ones who are wrong (illegal, criminal) is skirting the bigger picture. The history of humanity is one of migration - people moving from one place to another in order to find a way to live, a way to raise a family. We have to find a way to allow this.

  2. @Beth Cioffoletti "They are not criminals, they are following a pattern of movement that is basic to human need and essential to our global health." This movement is the opposite of global health. It is climate change.

  3. @Beth Cioffoletti Thank you for this humane, accurate and realistic response.

  4. @Beth Cioffoletti There are 7 billion humans in the world now, and the number keeps growing. Exactly how many would you take in? Any cogent discussion requires the facts--that would include the numbers.

  5. I have always known how the fortunes of being born here and having educational and work opportunities were great gifts. So I remember I have an obligation to others. I hope and vote for others to do the same. The world is not fair. Most will not live in wealthy countries. The U.S. needs to have sane immigration policies but we will not have open borders.

  6. In the formal legal sense of the term this opinion piece discusses, citizenship and the_sovereign_ state are two sides of the same coin. The sovereign state has absolute right to borders, which has its own trade-offs, for instance it can stop Chairman Kim from drafting me into his army but also requires a refugee from DPRK to go through cumbersome procedures at the border. It also stops Pres Trump from negotiating Brexit on behalf of Britishers, to give a more relevant example so to speak. It is more about trade-offs than fairness.

  7. We have no moral grounds for citizenship, for it is a political right with attendant responsibilities. So to ask for moral grounds, and then turn up none (surprise) is not an argument. There are all sorts of things I enjoy that I have that I have not earned to which I nevertheless have, as a citizen, a political right. We should certainly treat these exiles—i will call them neither “immigrants” nor “aliens,” which are transparent emotional appeals—with humanity, especially since our history in Central America probably helped create the misery which led the caravan to depart in the first place. But this article tries to suggest without actually arguing that they have more than a right to be treated humanely. And that’s nonsense.

  8. The United States does have inequality but it has also been the greatest engine for the improvement of human life that the world has ever seen. That's the morality of maintaining the United States - its borders and its economic system.

  9. @Amy: "- its borders..." Of course we want well-managed borders. Please don't let Trump and Hannity define our policies.

  10. @Amy. Your statement is simply false. Over the last 50 yrs, the European countries, Australia, and New Zealand, not to mention China and India, have alleviated countless HUNDREDS of MILLIONS out of poverty, while this country has created more and more poor. there are more poor here, in absolute numbers and in percentage, than it was 50 years ago.

  11. @Amy The answer is not to destroy the United States but to try to spread the benefits of our system with the rule of law everywhere around the world.

  12. Excellent article. Indeed, many Americans' only claim to citizenship is the fact that they were born here. We may argue that we were born of American parents, but somewhere along the line, with very few exceptions, we are children of immigrants. We may also argue that our ancestors came here legally, and that may or may not be true, but those that came here passed laws denying the same opportunities to others. I doubt that very many Americans could pass a citizenship test, including our president, whose family did, in fact, bring crime. As in all the serious issues facing Americans, our president cares only about himself, and his ever-dwindling base. Maybe we should make today's laws the same as they were when the Trump family arrived?

  13. Speak for yourself, Ms. Alexander. Many of us have earned our citizenship through selfless service to the nation. I'm referring to America's veterans who have quietly and effectively kept the rest of us safe from foreign invasion since 1815. Even though I believe that our recent misadventures in the Middle East were not worth the cost in American blood and treasure, the men and women who deployed there deserve our respect and thanks. You may not have earned your citizenship, but those young men and women certainly have.

  14. @Earl W. We all owe our country a debt of service. There are even some who have served as a means of earning the right to be called citizens, which this administration now wants to deny.

  15. @Earl W. Speak for yourself, Ms. Alexander. Many of us have earned our citizenship through selfless service to the nation. Actually, I thought she was speaking FOR you and against the rest of the sanctimonious whose citizenship was "earned" by nothing more than the fortune of birth. Human history is filled with those who find reason to feel superior. Some are stronger. Some are richer. Some are smarter. Some are better looking. Others lay claim to superiority by name, color of their skin, or where and when they were born. The very subtitle "On what moral grounds can we deny others rights, privileges and opportunities that we did not earn ourselves?" supports your right to citizenship Earl. And begs the question 'How do we deny citizenship to the the immigrants who served as non-citizens?' as some would do? If you earn your citizenship through selfless devoation to the nation how do we say they have not?

  16. @Earl W. There are many ways to serve the nation. Your military service is necessary and appreciated, but it's also important to recognize the service in identifying the underlying values of our nation that make us strong as Ms. Alexander has done. In the pursuit of a prosperous, peaceful world, instead of fighting and killing other human beings, it's much more effective to build alliances with the less fortunate through peaceful support and persuasion. We are strengthened as a nation and a globe by spreading our ideals of just laws and representational government by being welcoming and supportive.

  17. Thank you for this article. These are all thoughts I've had myself. I've been puzzled how the issues surrounding immigration have been hijacked and twisted to make so many people fear and hate the people who long to immigrate. It wasn't always such a hot issue. People crossed borders to work in the fields for a season, and then crossed back to be with their families. People willing to work hard contributed to our economy by working for low wages and were willing to live in cramped quarters, and they supported their families back home. It's aid we don't have to give away--not charity--and it's labor we need during harvest time and in other industries. Now we demonize poor people here and there. Desperate people we used to vet and allow entry to are now denied the right to even begin the process, stopped outside the border with no resources on an informal waiting list than can last months. Mostly I feel stunned. Where is our heart? If we need more judges to process people, more facilities, etc, we should get more. What was wrong with processing people, giving them ankle monitors, and giving them a court date? This was working fine until Sessions and Trump decided locking people up in detainment jails and sending babies and children to foster facilities was just fine. The cruelty and stinginess of my own country makes me feel such despair. And I've yet to hear a valid argument as to why it must be so. Our own birth rates are dropping. We need more immigrants, not less.

  18. @Leah Have you heard about offshoring of entire industries AND the robot/automation revolution which is on our doorstep and WILL eliminate millions of jobs?

  19. Politics is a practical business. Idealists are fine in church or lecturing on college campuses but they can destroy practical political progress for pie-in-the-sky aspirations that can never become reality. A rich person cannot alleviate poverty by giving away all their money and the U.S. cannot correct the failed states of the world by letting all their citizens join our country- no matter how unfair and cruel are their plights. Immigration policy can partially be based on helping the dispossessed with kindness and generosity but it must also be geared to what is best for the citizens of our own country. Open borders are not possible and immigration policy largely based on what most helps our own voters and economy should be clearly and unequivocally supported by Democrats. If Democrats stand for anything other than legal and responsible immigration policy we deserve the hit we will take at the polls on the matter.

  20. @alan haigh Immigration policy cannot be viewed in a silo. First, we have to look at history to understand the destructive role the US has played over the past 100 years-plus; our foreign policies over the past century and more are a big part of the reason many Latin American countries are in crisis today. Think the overthrow of the democratically elected government in Guatemala and in 1954, or the war in El Salvador and the criminalization of so many young Salvadoran refugees in this country and their subsequent deportation to a country they didn't know. Then we have to consider our current policies and how they affect the economies of our neighbors Latin America. If we want to solve the immigration issues confronting us, we have to truly help lift up those countries in a way that allows a large degree of self-determination.

  21. @alan haigh Open borders may be an ideal, but we can take beneficial steps towards it. For example, we could increase our per capita immigration rate to match Canada’s. Canada is doing just fine. Open borders are also a very successful tool for fighting world poverty. Poland, Romania, East Germany, etc. were failed states in 1990 and poorer than Mexico, but after joining the European Union with its open borders, they have rapidly converged with Western Europe.

  22. @Aoy East Germany is not the world and yet it took considerable time for West Germany to adjust economically to allowing this surge of population of people who mostly thought of themselves as German all along, dreaming in German and generally well educated to contribute to an industrial economy. What's more, the vast majority of W. Germans welcomed them. My point was as much about political expediency as economic. Trump is going to run on fear in 2 years if he has survived his legal challenges, if not, the GOP will likely still be trying to paint the Dems as foolish bleeding heart liberals who will give away our country to every person with a sob story that wants to come here. That may be an argument that appeals to a majority of voters. The argument that appeals to me is that immigration policy should be primarily based on what is best for our own citizens and the generosity of our government should not extend beyond the generosity of our voters.

  23. Every time I fly over the Statue of Liberty going to LaGuardia I ask myself the question - how did I really get to be a citizen of the United States? And then landing I find and love the diversity of NYC, a world of its own, people from everywhere making the city thrive, giving it the life that it is. Wondrous. But many of us never knew or had struggles. We never asked our ancestors about their struggles, their journeys. How have we taken all of this citizenship award without paying dues, for granted, we who have just been born into it? My heart goes out to all who have not had it as easy, effortless as myself. What goes on, children getting numbers written on their arms, locked in cages, separated from loved ones, atrocities and unfair testing because of skin color for being shipped to a country to slave, money and more money for paperwork to meet “legal standards” for citizenship, hiding and being scared of being caught in the meanwhile - is that the America we imagine? Once on one of those flights there was a rainbow right over the Statue of Liberty as we were coming in. Passengers were snapping pictures as we passed by. Citizenship in the United States - can it be a dream, a Somewhere Over the Rainbow dream? Or does it have to be a horrendous hardship nightmare - but worth it to those oppressed? We cannot, for most of us, even begin to imagine. Where has our spirit been, through the years, and certainly now?

  24. Irish-America always is right and has to score 100% on her citizenship test. On occasion, I enjoy tossing a cog in her wheel. Who is the only Catholic signer of The Declaration I ask; a man of vast wealth, a devout believer, married late a young woman of 19, both born in Annapolis, she died at 33, leaving behind three children out of seven while her spouse outlived the 56 other Founders, and died at 95. Charles Carroll is his name, and Mr. Douthat might wish to revisit the above in his writing. 'Illegal' means 'Illegal'. An immigrant is not always the same as a 'Refugee', the latter in flight for life. For some of us of long American ancestry, the power of Our Constitution and Democracy ring hollow. America prepares to celebrate Christmas. 'The Caravan' is the most powerful symbol of Christianity for this Pagan, an admirer and believer in the Pope. For those of us in the humanitarian field, we take an oath to serve and save the children of this world. Morality takes a back seat, while some of us put our lives in danger without blinking to rescue a 'Ms. Serrano-Hernandez'. Our country in turmoil and a state of crisis at the turn of a new year, we advocate The Clemency Pact, granted at this time of year, while continuing to learn more. Thank you, Ms. Alexander, and it is a legal newcomer to our country who taught me the meaning of our Flag.

  25. Bottom line: Ms Alexander wants open borders: If you can get here, you're a citizen. That's a political proposition. We're a democracy, right? Let's put that proposition to a vote.

  26. @17Airborne - If you can get here, you're a citizen. Actually that's not what the story was about. Ms. Serrano-Hernandez did not become a citizen because she got here. Her son was born here under our current laws. And Ms. Alexander said that while another story "seems to imply support for open borders — a position that no Republican or Democratic member of Congress supports or even takes seriously. " I believe what Alexander was writing for was to examine the process. That's not the same as wanting open borders that no one but those who are crossing illegally want. Oh, and you can't vote on what's in the Constitution. Amendments can be made to it.

  27. @17Airborne "If you can get here, you're a citizen." Isn't that how it worked for early settlers, the ones who came from Europe and elsewhere? They didn't get visas from Native Americans to get here nor go through a process to get citizenship. I realize times have changed and am not advocating open borders, but knowing the history of this country helps to understand the plight of some who take grave risks to get here.

  28. @17Airborne. Marie and RK completely missed your point. If we did take a vote, open borders would be struck down by large margins. Even birthright citizenship, or bringing extended families could be struck down. The open borders Democrats will tank the Democrats’ chances of enacting any legislation with open borders rhetoric.

  29. Ah, America: always spoiling for a fight. The comments here suggest the readers didn’t get past the headlines (again). The servicemen and women will always deserve respect. No one suggests otherwise. Sane policies fueled by both compassion and pragmatism don’t mean favoring open borders. Also explicitly stated in the article. Given our lazy approach to fact-gathering and the widespread willful ignorance currently on display among our own citizens, I propose requiring everyone pass the citizenship test, not just new arrivals. Maybe if the locals understand how government works, we’ll have less division, more willingness to compromise and leaders capable of providing solutions.

  30. @1 Woman All I can say to you is "Thank you, Ma'am!". I'd even settle for an old-fashioned high school civics test.

  31. @1 Woman. Thank you for the lofty nonsense. So helpful. Those posting here are all quite aware of how government works. Respond to the op ed, not to your impressions of the citizenry.

  32. @1 Woman "The comments here suggest the readers didn’t get past the headlines (again). " Well now. We not only read the article, we read between the lines to extract the hidden agenda -- the leftist crusade to push the Overton Window towards open borders and the eventual abolition of the nation-state. It's all there. Just open your eyes.

  33. The logical conclusion of the author's views is that there is no moral case for the idea of a nation state or citizenship, with the attendant obligation to protect and provide for the citizens of the nation state. The author references the original sins of the US - slavery, conquest, and genocide - to justify this view. Almost every nation state has horrific crimes in its past. But the moral obligation, or lack thereof, to protect the citizens of a country is not based on history from centuries ago - it is based on the here and now. One aspect of recognizing the nation state is the concept of citizenship, and rules regarding who gets to be citizen. The far higher moral duty is to protect the nation state, and to do so in the context of a democracy. That morality is served when the citizens of a democracy decide what our immigration laws are going to be. There is no moral justification to allow anyone else on the planet to decide what our immigration policies are going to be. If the moral justification of the nation state is questioned, everything else is in play, including the welfare state. What moral obligation do I have to pay my taxes to support people I do not know and will never meet? Citizenship in a nation state provides the moral basis of the welfare state. If you see no moral obligation to protect our borders, I see no moral obligation to pay taxes and support the welfare state. If you're offering, I'll take that deal.

  34. There has never been a universal inalienable right to live anywhere. Borders have existed since the earliest man--they have been territorial, individual, clan, tribal, ethnic, religious, military, dynastic, political etc. I am not sure where the author even conceived of the notion of the inalienable right of movement--having now lived in Europe for 6 years I have become increasingly aware of the long history (including prehistoric) of struggles for territorial control and dominance. A mark of civilization is the planned and orderly flow of people across borders--just as trade is regulated so must be the immigration of people. I really have no idea what the author is thinking. I don't assume I have a right to US citizenship--it is the result of 50+ years of work(as an adult), commitment to my community, respect for the democratic process etc. Neith did I think I had a right to residence in Ireland--it is a privilege--and one not easily secured. Planned orderly immigration is a must for continued growth(spiritual, economic. intellectual) unplanned immigration and the assumption of a right to move is intrinsically destabilizing--in the past it has been variously called, displacement, territorial encroachment/conflict and even invasion and war.

  35. @Frank Ayers There is no historical collective right of migration other than the right of might. If you are not an invited guest, you are an invader.

  36. @Frank Ayers look into the history of establishing the state of California. Orderly immigration had nothing to do with it--a mad mass rush into land claimed by Spain then France, then Mexico, to pillage and despoil the environment to make money. This includes my ancestors, who weren't that great at making money except for the more criminally minded. Glorified as "pioneers"...poppycock--they came for the gold, stayed for the weather. Thank g-d my ancestors recognized the value of good sunshine with low humidity.

  37. A few years ago my German born wife became a naturalized citizen for months she studied the material that is made available for candidates, it consisted of a 100 sample questions focused on our history, how our government works and the responsibilities of new citizens. There is a required test applicants have to pass and they also have to demonstrate proficiency in speaking and writing English. It should also be required for all our students before they graduate from high school in my opinion. But what I will never forget was attending the swearing in ceremony in Tampa and observing the emotions in that tear filled room of those new citizens and their families. I said to myself silently that this is what America is all about.

  38. @Robert Keller A while back, I attended the Macy's Fireworks taking a viewing spot in Long Island City. While waiting for the proceedings to begin, I was astonished by the number of people of various ethnic groups, wearing Fourth of July themed garments. I do not even own anything like this, but the holiday was obviously important to them.

  39. @David. July 4th is the Passover of the whole US.

  40. In order to understand immigration, consider that there is there is a belief in this country that it belongs to the white man. That’s essentially how the constitution was written. The constitution endorsed slavery by not banning it or mentioning it and listed slaves as 3/5 of people for census purposes. And it left women out entirely. The author did not advocate for open borders.

  41. @NSf Remember that slave owners would have preferred that slaves be counted as 5/5 persons to give them more influence in Congress. The often maligned 3/5 provision was actually a rebuke to slavery.

  42. @David It wasn't a rebuke to anything. It was a compromised. States with low slave populations wanted slaves to count as 0/5 for representation purposes, while states with high slave populations wanted them to count as 5/5. So they compromised, and settled near the middle. That clause had nothing to do with the ideology of slavery, and everything to do with two groups wanting to gather as much power for themselves as possible.

  43. @David more a compromise than a rebuke.

  44. I grew up in LA where there were many people who arrived in the US by crossing our southern border. Those that I knew were honorable folks that sought a better life. They worked hard, bought homes, purchased much that supported others from their earnings. Some started by working in agricultural enterprises that freed this country. My grandparents came in a similar manner to the US from Russia where they were abused, forced to live in ghettos, and somehow managed to come to our country. They all worked hard, made a life for themselves, largely free of the persecution in their country of origin. Many earned advanced degrees in fields of their choice. In some cases this took another generation before their children were able to climb the so called social ladder. As I grew up I have met many people who have come to our great country and lifted themselves up. The most important contribution that all of us must make is to provide a thorough education for all children so that they can make a maximal contribution to our society. We have plenty of room for all.

  45. This reflects my own life. I was conceived in another country, and my parents and three year old brother became naturalized citizens in due course. I've often thought about the circumstances of my birth, and the strange lines we scratch into the Earth to divide ourselves from others. My parents entered according to the laws of that time, but that should make no difference. America is a nation of immigrants, (that's the charitable word), we need immigration, and we need to accept our roll as one of the world's most selfish nations, which has benefited from some of history's greatest crimes to become what it is. Ms. Alexander's ancestors were likely dragged here in chains, and mine came here to escape them. Our president's ancestors were kicked out of their country, but now they want to come here and lock the door behind them?

  46. This is an easy article to write if no reasonably practical solution is offered. It seems to acknowledge that true open borders are not possible, but the basic message seems to be that they are the only moral thing America can do? What, then, does the author recommend as an actual course of action?

  47. The moral obligation of people skipping out on the problems in the country they were born in to run off to America is to fix the problems in the country of birth. And if they did fight and fix those problems, they'd then have an ethical basis to protect their own borders via reasonable laws on immigration against freeloaders trying to take advantage of them. The author proposes the citizenship equivalent of legalizing theft. I find it intensely aggravating when what should be a moral plea is presented as moral threat, clearly the threat of force is inherent here, should those who favor open borders ever have that power. Majoritarian tyrants love these veiled threat arguments. Most Americans do not.

  48. Nations states define themselves by determining who falls within the circle and who does not. Some, like the Romans, allowed for a broader definition than, say, the Athenians. Is there a moral imperative prompting the decision to grant citizenship under every circumstance; sneaking across the border, for example, accompanied by a claim of persecution as the impetus for the action? The power of the state includes its right and ability to say who is a citizen and who is not. Sometimes the results may appear unfair, unjust eve, to the illegal immigrant whose application for citizenship, or for a green card, has been denied, because they fall outside the quota or because their claims are disbelieved. Private bills can be introduced in Congress to remedy egregious errors, States have the right to determine its character.

  49. @heyomania Sadly, the American character is devoid of those things which so many seem to think grant them great privilege.

  50. We have a First Lady who entered on some kind of modeling visa with parents tagging along on her coattails, becoming U.S. citizens, with a Husband/Son-In-Law who constantly belittles immigrants to appease his base. I'm not sure how Trump fanatics square Trump's family with his inflammatory rhetoric, but they seem perversely excited by concluding immigrants are mostly criminals who must be kept out by building a Wall and by discriminately banning immigrants of the Muslim faith. We should all want a humane process of immigration that does not distort reality with lies. Everyone has their own story and but for the grace of [insert your own higher being here] you too could be on the other side of the Wall.

  51. @ScottW Because when Trump says "Immigrants" he really means "Brown People". Nothing that he says about immigration is supposed to apply to sexy white women.

  52. My father’s parents came from Italy as poor, uneducated teens without their parents. They worked menial jobs and had 5 children. Unfortunately they did not educate the girls but all of the boys got college educations and two got advanced degrees, including my father who became a teacher. The third generation, all of the grandchildren have college degrees and are at least middle class professionals, a nurse practitioner, a college professor. The opportunity of the U.S. allowed for upward mobility within 1 generation. By Trump standards my grandparents would never have been allowed into this country because they were poor and uneducated.

  53. If American citizens are not entitled to our borders, why is the author of this piece entitled to her home? Let a deserving person move in and move her out. As citizens, we work hard to make our own country greater, for example, by removing inequities as best we can but that does not mean we owe the entire world citizenship any more than we should give up our homes we worked hard for to a poor person. We cannot go to foreign countries and demand citizenship. Good citizens work hard to improve their own countries. Morality has little to do with the luck of the draw. My parents were not millionaires. That does not give me the right to break into someone else’s home and demand those benefits. Illegal immigration should continue to be unlawful and unacceptable.

  54. @Sue Mee Presumably, the author of this piece worked for a willing employer and used her wages to buy her house. That is totally different from citizenship, which is inherited and not purchased. Plus, people can always build new houses, and you can’t build new countries any more. A better analogy is that the world is like a city where everyone is assigned to a house at birth, no one can build new houses, and it is very hard to move so 97% of people stay in the house they are born in for their whole life. People can do home improvement, but some houses are already in tip-top shape while others are beyond repair. Plus, what jobs you can get depend on what house you were born in, so people in the poorer houses can’t get jobs that would allow them to buy the tools they’d need to repair their houses. Surely, this kind of system is worth tearing down.

  55. @Sue Mee One is entitled to their home because they have bought it or they rent it. If one lives in this country one pays taxes and to continue to cast those who come here 'illegally' as thieves is immoral. Within months of Trump's election, a man in northern Indiana was deported amid a great outcry from his US citizen wife and his US citizen neighbors and employees. During the time he was here 'illegally', he built a thriving business which hired and paid fair wages to more than a dozen US citizens, he was a generous neighbor and member of the community, among the first to contribute when there was a need, and was a loving husband and father. He wasn't lucky enough to have been born here nor did he have legal status. His wife voted for Trump believing he would deport 'bad' 'illegals'. It never occurred to her and her neighbors that Trump and his supporters were talking about her husband. I've never been able to forget the ship St. Louis, which sailed from Europe with just over 900 mostly Jewish refugees at the beginning of WWII. The US refused them entry and while some were allowed asylum in a few ports, including Cuba, of the approximately 690 forced to return to Europe in 1940, 254 died at the hands of the Nazis, including in Auschwitz and Sobibór. We turn away those who need shelter and asylum at our own moral peril.

  56. @Sue Mee Most Americans welcome LEGAL immigrants, but do not want ILLEGAL aliens; i.e., foreigners in the US illegally. We cannot afford (or choose not) to support our own citizens: the poor, the ill, elderly, disabled, veterans, et al. It is thus impossible for US taxpayers to support the hundreds of millions of foreigners who would like to come here. US laws allow foreigners (aliens) to seek entry and citizenship. Those who do not follow these laws are in this country illegally (i.e., illegal aliens) and should be detained and deported; this is policy in other countries, too. The cruelty lies not in limiting legal immigration, or detaining and deporting illegal aliens, or forcing those who wish to enter the US to wait for processing. What is cruel, unethical and probably illegal is encouraging parents to bring their children on the dangerous trek to US borders and teaching the parents how to game the system to enter the US by falsely claiming asylum, persecution, etc. Indeed, many believe bringing children on such perilous journeys constitutes child abuse. Open borders is a policy no nation will ever approve. We will lose the 2020 elections if open borders are part of the Democratic platform.

  57. For me the issue is very simple, everyone should be free to live wherever they wish. That's what justice demands. What give me the moral right to tell anyone where they can or can't live. The problem of migration is the problem or our times; like slavery was two centuries ago. Not just on the border with Mexico, but worldwide. There are thousand perishing trying to cross the Mediterranean, many perishing on the Arizona desert. We are all morally responsible for their deaths. It's time to embrace abolition. We abolish the problem by declaring that all should be free to live wherever they wish.

  58. @PNBlanco Ok fine. What rules should we live under? The people of Europe tend not to believe in free speech in the same way Americans do. Many in the Islamic world think that think that blasphemy should be outlawed and punishable by prison or death. Chinese want to kill tigers and rhinos for ridiculous medicinal (sexual) purposes. Mexicans have a very low age of consent by American standards. And so on. We can not all live in the same nation or under the same laws. We are different. The best way to accommodate these differences is to have different countries.

  59. Ms. Alexander literally says she is not advocating for open borders. So anyone who is interpreting her as saying that she is advocating for open borders needs to, as I tell my fourth graders when they missed glaring explicitly stated ideas, re-read the article. What does it mean to “earn” our right to live here? It’s an interesting idea. Many people are saying that they earned their right to live here through public service and hard work. I love that idea. Of course, it’s not required of US citizens to give public service in order to live here. You could spend your life stealing from people, exploiting people and discriminating against people, and if you were born in say, Queens, you could still one day become president! But I think this is a good idea. Maybe none of us born in the US should become citizens until we have earned it. Maybe we should all have to dedicate some years of our lives to public service, fight for our nation, teach in our public schools, be social workers for the poverty stricken, help restore our highways and educate others about our national parks. To earn means to not have it until you do something for it. Finally, Ms. Alexander talks about morality not just based on history but now. She states, with evidence, that our country’s policies have in part created the violent and poor conditions of the countries people are fleeing from, such as in Honduras. She asks us to simply consider the moral obligations of our country in light of this truth.

  60. Disingenuous argument designed to guilt trip people into sabotaging the country. The US can't possibly absorb everyone from the third world who wants to live here. When a lifeboat is full, every new passenger raises the odds whole boat will sink.

  61. @Noodles “Deserve” is almost alway a term of manipulation, otherwise devoid of meaning.

  62. Ms Alexander ......my ancestors helped build this country into what it is today. They served in the military, created businesses, cared for the vulnerable here and more. They did that as part of building a better place for their children to live .....so....yes....I do feel entitled to that. Just as I invest my time money and life’s work creating a society here in the US that will be better for my children. Sorry...I just don’t believe it’s practical to radically increase our immigration numbers without sacrificing that which I and my ancestors sacrificed to construct.

  63. @TC Unless your ancestors were Native American, they, like mine, were among those who stole land from those who held it from the beginning of time and in doing so wreaked genocide, even if inadvertently. To claim that gives us some extraordinary privilege and superiority demonstrates a lack understand of our true place.

  64. We Americans should want every human being on Earth to desire to become "American." Anyone who believes in the rule of law that says every man is created equal and deserves equal treatment and equal protection is an "American." For those who can't make it to America perhaps they can work to transform their country into a Democracy just like ours. We should want the entire world to become "American." But with hateful people like the Trumpers one has to wonder why they would want to do it here?

  65. Ms. Serrano-Hernandez is not entitled to simply move here and have U.S taxpayers support her and her children. If I don't deserve citizenship then the government does not deserve my hard earned tax dollars. That's the social contract. Allowing open borders migration destroys that cooperative agreement and fills the void with every man for himself anarchy. No enforced immigration laws. No country any of us are obligated to.

  66. The murder rate in St. Louis is higher than that of San Salvador; the murder rate in Baltimore is higher than that in Guatemala City and San Pedro Sula. Looks to me like we'd be doing Central Americans a favor by telling them to go home where it's safer. It also looks to me like there are a lot of untruths being told by people who depend on emotion rather than facts.

  67. @JPE it looks to me like you think cherry picking statistics is a replacement for reality

  68. America is not the only country that proclaims itself a nation of immigrants and freedom. Please look, for example, to your northern neighbor. Incidentally, if times change, as they do, and America ceases to be so prosperous but Canada becomes more so, will you assert a right to cross the Canadian border at your own election? If so, can you let us know now so we can prepare?

  69. @Terrence 1. Isn't Sydney in Australia, not Canada? 2. Canadian immigration requirements are infinitely stricter than US immigration requirements, even though liberals somehow refuse to admit this fact. Please research the Canadian immigration system. You are correct that Canadians are richer than Americans, if you are speaking of average citizens, and have a higher quality of life. But how long would that last if Canada opened its borders?

  70. @Terrence You wouldn't let in a teen mom either, let alone pay her medical bills. But don't worry if I do. Like most Americans, I am skilled and educated. I don't have pile of children and I can support myself.

  71. @me, there is a Sydney, Australia; as well as a Sydney, Canada (in Nova Scotia). Either way, your points are well-taken. Both Canada and Australia strictly enforce their immigration laws. Australia has ended birthright citizenship and requires many illegal immigrants and, somewhat controversially, requires asylum seekers to stay on islands off-shore of the Australian continent, while awaiting a determination of their status. As for Canada's merit-based immigration system, President Trump has supported moving to a similar skills and points-based system, specifically through his support of the Cotton-Perdue "RAISE" Act, introduced in the US Senate last year. RAISE Act is partially based on recommendations made by President Clinton's Bipartisan Commission on Immigration Reform, led by African-American, Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Jordan (aka the "Jordan Commission"). Unfortunately, there were not enough votes for it to pass. In spite of the great work of the Jordan Commission, not a single Democrat signed on to support the RAISE Act.

  72. This moral preachment is dangerous. Treating asylum seekers humanely is a mark of a civilized nation. However closing the door on the importance of birthright citizenship because we haven’t (by definition) earned it, leads us backwards toward earlier concepts of citizenship, one bestowed by bloodline, race, or ethnicity. I’m sure the author hardly means to go there. However, if she denies the validity of birthright citizenship and recognizes the necessity of secured borders, how then is citizenship conferred?

  73. @Victor Have you ever read Starship Troopers? I just finished it recently, and Robert Heinlen has me about 85% convinced that citizenship should have to be earned through some sort of national service, whether it is in the military or otherwise.

  74. Much is made of the desperate struggles of many to cross deserts to share in the good fortune of the USA--and that's all true. But let's face a simple fact: many come because they are paid to work. So amid all the nasty portrayals of Latin immigrants, let's ask, and answer honestly: who provides that paid work? Ignoring this central attraction is like the companion blindfolded claim: "drugs are pouring over the border." Of course; but those drugs, too, come because Americans pay for them. Two separate problems, of course, but Americans ramp them up; and Trump and his ilk pretend that the demand side does not exist. We have an opioid crisis; a vaping crisis; a gun-deaths crisis; but the major threat to the USA is from infants and their desperate mothers? D. J. Trump has been exposed as one who hires undocumented immigrants. He also hires documented immigrants. He also boasts of all the jobs that remain unfilled. His beneficiaries all across the wealthy suburbs hire domestic help in one form or another, with or without papers; others hire pickers and packers; butchers and cutters: and he gives those employers tax breaks. Added to all that hypocrisy we have the unavoidable fact that Trump lives in some gilded dystopia, and seems unable to function without nasty conflict and chaos. Remember: “he was elected to shake the system up!”

  75. This argument for open borders avoids the unpleasant fact that moral consistency conflicts with ecological reality: On a practical level, as much as we would like it to be otherwise, the US cannot accommodate all of the people who would like to come here. The world is a terrifying and unjust place for hundreds of millions, each of whom is morally justified to do whatever they can to improve their children's prospects. So the moral justification for those already here is self-preservation. To generalize Ms Alexander's argument: What moral right do humans have to living on this planet? We, unlike trees, don't contribute to sustaining its ecosystem. Indeed we are destroying it. Ironically, Ms Alexander's lead to Robert Heinlein: his semi-fascistic novel Stormship Troopers answered for Ms Alexander: military service earns citizenship. Be careful of what you wish for: complete moral consistency leads to extremism.

  76. I wish writers would stop using logic and persuasion. It keeps making me change my mind.

  77. Most United States citizens are not aware or do not care their government and corporate policies/actions which foster instability and mass migration. We created peace and prosperity at home at the cost of poverty and war abroad. And yes the US might be a great place for US citizens

  78. By this logic we should have dissolved the United States the day after Adams and Jefferson died. We earn our citizenship every day by preserving our Constitution and traditions of liberal democracy. To paraphrase Franklin, we earn our citizenship as long as we can keep our Republic.

  79. @Norwester How many people actually actively preserve our constitution...say, likely exercising the right to vote, having done their homework first on constitutional matters?

  80. @Norwester "We earn our citizenship every day by preserving our Constitution and traditions of liberal democracy. To paraphrase Franklin, we earn our citizenship as long as we can keep our Republic." Have you been following the news ?

  81. Sometimes there is a large gap between justice and what is right. We are a nation of “laws,” but more to the point, we are a nation of statutes, ever changing to fit the mood of the times.

  82. @DavidJ How about the undocumented immigrants in the US armed forces that our president's administration is trying to deport? You've missed the point of the whole article about birthright citizenship, making the discussion all about yourself. Are you more deserving of citizenship than the immigrant who has also served our country, just because you were born here?

  83. @jsk They're not undocumented.They are illegals.

  84. I am a veteran of over 20 years service in the Army of the United States as a paratrooper, leader, and solder. I served in multiple locations around the globe, including Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as Bosnia, Korea, and other problem areas. I do deserve citizenship as do my comrades who served honorably. The author of this piece is welcome to describe her own status as unearned; she would know better than I. Frankly, she can leave anytime for wherever she prefers if such a place exists.

  85. @Chris Thank you.As a veteran (U S Army 1966-1974) whose family has served in every war this country has fought and lost members in doing so, I was deeply offended that the author seemed to cavalierly dismiss the cost of freedom.

  86. @Chris Thank you for your 20 years of service to our country. I am grateful to you ,and to all those who have served, and do serve this nation .

  87. @Chris. I'm 73 years old, never in military service, have fulfilled my duties as a citizen in many ways over the years, including political involvement, service in local organizations, never missing a vote, and yes, being a committed anti-war activist. I am grateful to have been born in a country that, at least at the time of my youth, expected active involvement in our political system and our government. I am in favor of a system of universal service, in the military in someone so chooses, but with a civilian opportunity as well. Those 20 years you've been in the military, I've been working on the home front to make sure the country you serve still continues to function. I pay my taxes without complaint, and that money provided your pay and funded the military. You seem to have forgotten that the military does not exist without the rest of us.

  88. My grandparents arrived without papers, fleeing persecution and brutality. They made lives here, raised families, and loved America and the American dream. In recent years, as that dream faded and has become nightmarish, I have given thanks they died before seeing their beloved country devolve as it is. Should I be deported now due to their lack of papers then? Also - my friend who was born in Hong Kong became a citizen about 20 years ago - he has been in this country from age 12. He knows American history and constitutional law more thoroughly than I do, with the same love of an immigrant that my grandparents had. The swearing in ceremony was held at Brooklyn College - the auditorium filled with people from every corner of the earth. There wasn't a dry eye in the house by the time it was over...such deep emotion to renounce all ties to your former home to embrace your new one and pledge allegiance to it. Those who would do all this certainly belong here.

  89. If you think the country is “nightmarish” then leave. Ain’t nobody holding you here. Pick any of the top 30 economies and vote with your feet. The flood of immigrants coming here says that your “nightmarish” statement is empirically incorrect.

  90. The thing to understand about people up in arms about illegal immigrants is that they aren't actually upset about illegal immigrants. What they're upset about is that a greater portion of people around the country are brown and speak Spanish fluently, and they see that as an indication that they themselves aren't powerful. This is abundantly clear when you listen to their complaints: "They're voting in our elections!" Illegal immigrants can't, because they're not citizens. "They're taking all our welfare aid!" Illegal immigrants don't generally qualify, and giving all their information to the government is just inviting ICE to their doorstep. "They took our jobs!" Except they didn't, because you didn't even try to do the jobs that illegal immigrants do. And it becomes even more clear with Trump's campaign warning of taco trucks on every corner - which liberal-minded folks like myself think would be fantastic and convenient. This isn't about laws, or the morality of immigration, this is about whether anglo culture will continue to dominate America, and conservatives trying to ensure that it will by force of arms.

  91. @Dave Well said. It's just another dog whistle, that allows them to pretend that it isn't about race, and rather about "obeying the law".

  92. Let's generalize: We ought to begin by acknowledging that none of us who were born into a family did anything to deserve our membership, and yet all of us — no matter into whatever family we were born — deserve compassion and basic human rights. Does this mean that we are morally obligated to permanently house the homeless in our own homes? This article makes the argument that we are. And in some sense, it is true. But it's the kind of argument pushed by people who will never have to do so.

  93. I think an issue with this argument is it shifts from one level of aggregation to another illogically. An individual born here has done nothing to "deserve" the privileges they inherit but the people born here do inherit the rights and privledges - and *they* deserve those rights and privledges in a legal and moral sense. The compelling argument is that a people, as a group and across generations and across time, have a right to self governance and to build a society, a social welfare system, and a country (with laws and rights they codify and enforce) and that right to the group leads to progress, prosperity, and privledges (or leads to the absence of those conditions, depending on aggregated choices). A people cannot create a better world within a country if all comers have an equal claim on entry and citizenship. The moral imperative is aggregate self determination and social justice to the group. No one has earned that - no *one* - but countries, peoples, and communities *do* have a right to change their condition and to protect that condition from some strange claim that it is a public, common good.

  94. Michelle, you've offered a compelling, thought-provoking argument. However, I'm inspired to take your scenario in a different direction. In our era of looming catastrophic climate change and overpopulation, how can Serrano-Hernandez see fit to have two children by her 19th year, children that she is compelled to seek the kindness of strangers in order to protect? I accept your premise that inappropriate US interventions in Latin America during the Cold War and afterwards may have contributed to the societal instability that prompt Serrano-Hernandez to come here - but why should those Americans who have opted to not bring children into the world feel responsible for people in other countries reproductive choices? On a planet whose ecosystem is hemorrhaging due to overpopulation, thus potentially putting the entire human experiment at risk, why should we be enabling Ms. Serrano-Hernandez' problematic choice? Perhaps we should place primary blame here on the influence of various Christian / Catholic churches that oppose contraception and abortion, and promote a retrograde view that the burden of child birth is the wage of sexual relations. But Michelle, are we as Americans within our rights to try to do our part in saving the planet by strongly discouraging others from having children that they cannot feasibly take care of? Or are we required to stand idly by while every last species on the planet perishes due to overpopulation and climate crisis, alongside our own?

  95. @Matthew Carnicelli It is an almost entirely emotional argument that provokes thought in the reader by its absence in the piece.

  96. Yes!

  97. The baby born in the US is a citizen as prescribed by law. The mother and the other child are not citizens also as prescribed by the law and they should go through the legal process as prescribe by the law. And I say this a an immigrant who went through the legal process and spent 5 years and thousands of dollars to get my legal entry visa. Without laws that we enforce we will become that country that these people are fleeing from. There are tens of thousands of people at any one time going through the legal process and those jumping the fence should be able to jump to the front of the queue.

  98. Ms. Alexander puts her cards on the table: she does not believe in the nation-state. It's really neo-liberalism at its end game...people shall go where they want, do what they want. This ideology does not accept borders, and it does not accept limits. She is unwittingly a useful too of the Davos crowd, that loves cheap labor and lots of it. But we have a finite planet presently carved up into nation states. No where in her essay do I see any mention of the other US natives that suffer from open borders--ecosystems and the 99% of fellow species that are losing their homes because anyone who feels entitled to come here does so. Despite low birth rates, our nation grows by 30 million per decade, with no end in sight. The US will be over half a billion humans at this rate by the end of the 21st century. Yet I bet Ms. Alexander is all for "sustainability." Well, her vision of open borders is not sustainable. It's overpopulated certain parts of the US and it led directly to Trump.

  99. Ms Alexander ably outlines the paradox of citizenship. The inalienable rights she quotes are universal and apply everywhere human beings exist. That is as true in Peoria, USA, as it is in Puerto Cortés, Honduras. Fixing our immigration “problem” requires more than humane policies regarding our borders—although doing just that would be a refreshing change. We need to think about those inalienable rights everywhere. Until we address our ever-heating planet, poverty, lack of healthcare, and political oppression in those places that suffer the most, we will never solve the “problem". Big challenge? You bet. But we have no choice. Our planet continues to shrink. Human suffering is portable and moves more easily every day. Until we address that suffering, none of us can fully exercise our inalienable rights.

  100. Devil's in the details, Ms. Alexander, and the Chicago School wasn't wrong about everything. First of all, the humanity of prospective immigrants isn't up for question. But in recognizing the humanity of prospective immigrants worldwide, it doesn't follow that that humanity entitles them to automatic citizenship in the country of their choice, with all attendant benefits. Back to Uncle Milty and the Chicago School - you have a choice, open borders with full access to benefits, or a welfare state. Borders are what enable a welfare state. Choose the former, you'll eventually have no welfare state to come to. Wouldn't hurt to brush up on your Econ 101 as well, and the laws of supply and demand of labor. Where do you propose that we place these hopefuls? To live, be educated, treated to healthcare? Let me guess - the poorest districts who can afford it least. If you have other ideas, let me introduce you to blue state NIMBYs.

  101. @rtj.........Friedmans (and the Chicagos school of eeconomics) theory of supply side hegemony......is about as ''GETTING IT ALL WRONG" as you can get !

  102. Our right of citizenship was not earned by those of us who were born here, it was earned by our forebears, who founded and built this country, who fought in its wars and made a nation. It was bequeathed to us by people who cared about what became of their posterity, and it was their right to make a future in which their descendants could live prosperous and full lives. Even if we don't care for ourselves, we have a duty to respect what they did for our sake and for the sake of those who come after us. Our civilization is a beautiful thing, not without flaws, but still beautiful, and as it passes through our hands during our brief lives, we have a duty of stewardship. We have a duty to our own descendants to maintain and improve America as a place where they can thrive. In the world imagined by Ms. Alexander, we are just here, born without legacy, family or history leading to who we are as people who are more than accidents of nature. There is no meaning to the word "nation". We are just here and need form no allegiance to anything. For all of her expressions of compassion for struggling migrants, Ms. Alexander's world is a cold one indeed.

  103. @PWR "Even if we don't care for ourselves, we have a duty to respect what they did for our sake" As someone who has forebearers that arrived in what would become America on the boat called the Mayflower: I respect the courage it took to sail here to try to find a better life, and I respect those who risked their lives and livelihoods to make other's lives better. I don't respect their grave-robbing, their murdering of fellow townsfolk over religious fanaticism, their many many murders of native peoples, their involvement in the slave trade, or their abysmal treatment of later arrivals to this country. Our ancestors were human, and made mistakes. Our duty to them is to celebrate what they got right, and try to correct their mistakes.

  104. Great article! We should never forget the ending paragraph. America's policies, military adventures, etc. are a principal cause of people fleeing their homelands (few make this journey without economic or social or political stresses in their lives), therefore, we are all complicit when we don't demand that this "representative" government ensure that its policies, military and corporate greed does not wreck havoc on other countries and peoples.

  105. Do we deserve our parents? Siblings? Neighbors? Countries? True some are lucky; others not. It's part of the "natural lottery". We don't choice our own bodies, minds or personalities either. The question is peculiar--these are not matters of choice--neither for us nor them; so at best it's a hypothetical--IF it were a matter of choice, would/should we or they so choose? As for citizens--natives are born and raised in the polity (by definition) and some--with the ability to emigrate--may be said to choose to stay. Others may be stuck. Aliens (peculiar term) choose to apply. "Desert" is a matter of of selection by the host polity. It's not unlike team selection--in sports and elsewhere. But the question remains, what should the lucky ones do about the unlucky ones? It's not a matter of desert or debt--the lucky are not indebted to the unlucky. But better personality types (by many standards--including enlightened self interest), if lucky, care about the unlucky--whether siblings or aliens. Thus foreign aid--not to be confused with foreign investment for exploitation--on and on. No man is an island. No country either. Somebody tell Trump.

  106. And what if most Americans disagree with this writer? Do THEY have any rights? Also, are Americans the only nationals who are obligated to take in all 8 billion human beings on the globe or do Russians, Canadians, Australians, Norwegians share in that responsibility? What if they don't want to open their borders? I see some hints from Europe that not everyone agrees with this writer; do other people have a right to their own priorities.

  107. These comments are filled with logical fallacies and invective as well as chauvinism and short sightedness. It is a false choice - there are so many of them here - to think we must mistreat immigrants, abuse them, deny them due process and shrug off our moral imperatives or else “we will lose our country.” The choice is not merely binary. What kind if country is worth preserving that mistreats people within and outside our borders? I thought we were better than that.

  108. @Alan McCall What kind of country has no borders or immigration laws?

  109. You are correct. None of us deserve citizenship; however, we all deserve a nation of laws. There is a distinct difference that is overlooked when politically expedient.

  110. I am a naturalized U.S. citizen and I am deeply offended by this headline. I deserve US citizenship because I earned it through education and hard work and by doing EVERYTHING legally. The grounds on which we, the citizens of the U.S., get to decide who we accept as fellow citizens are the same grounds by which every other country in the world gets to decide the same question. The reason people want to come to this country -- and not choose any other, particularly, in this case, Mexico -- is that we have created (and are continuing to create) something unique here - more opportunity and possibility than most other countries, a free and open society, law and order, and abundance of the stuff that makes for a good life (clean air, clean water, a room to call one's own). Some my quibble with my characterization, given their current pessimism thanks to Trump. However, having an experience of living in the country of my birth, I maintain that, even now, it is orders of magnitude better here. What Michelle Alexander, the NYT, and others of their ilk forget is that their ideas and the policies they advocate will lead us down a path where we are sure to lose precisely the things (the ones I listed above), that make us such a magnet. Be careful what you wish for!

  111. @na Amen, welcome, and happy to have legal immigrants. Orderly processing of requests, both to immigrate and to come as a refugee, is what every citizen expects of our nation's government.

  112. @na I agree, I came to the US with a dream, but I came legally. I grew up poor, I worked hard, I applied and got my green card. My country did not allow duel citizenship and I always had a good job with benefits, so I didn't become a citizen. I travel a lot, and increasingly it became more difficult to return . When Trump came down that elevator, I knew. I applied for citizenship after many years. I provided ten years of tax returns, and every passport page going back to 1976. I have travelled to 80 countries, I have lived in many, to welcome in a 19 year old with 2 kids under 3 will not add to the greatness of the country, it has already begun burdening it (who paid for the birth of her child?). There are parts of this country that already look like the third world. You wanna come and live the dream, work hard and don't break in. And until the democrats get this, and stop this open border nonsense they have no chance of winning. I'm a democrat, you do not represent me. I am currently in a third world country and spent 4 hours waiting to extend my visa today. There were many mothers with infants in that room, not one of them was eligible for citizenship, just because their kid was born there. And none of them would be eligible for citizenship if they were unwed. Michelle Alexander exists in her little bubble, she doesn't have to deal with the every day issues that this woman presents, I will have to because she will need taxpayer support.

  113. "On what moral grounds can we deny others rights, privileges and opportunities that we did not earn ourselves?" I do not concern myself with this moral question. It is the wrong one to ask about this situation. If human beings were a sinless and non-violent species, we would all live in a commune and sacrifice for each other. For whatever reason, human nature did not evolve an endless supply of goodwill toward others. We compete with each other for survival. We create social and cultural structures which foster cooperation but they also detect and punish cheaters. Some of these structures work well and some do not. Whether ours in the USA are better than those in, say, Syria or Honduras may be a matter of debate, but the fact so many migrants are "fleeing poverty and violence" in those other places indicates ours has some value beyond theirs. It's worth preserving, I think. The past is past... Cosmic justice (or the judgement of gods) being what it is, we may or may not be punished for our sins or the sins of our ancestors. But that's no reason to ignore human nature. We must be prudent with our trust. It's rough out there. Just ask the refugees fleeing poverty and violence.

  114. Are there borders to respect on ANY sort of property? For example, if I covet my neighbor's new flat screen television, can I assume that the border between what is "his property" and "my property" is permeable so I can just take his tv? Can I assume the border between what is my neighbor's car in his driveway and not in mine is a permeable border so I can take his car? What did he do to "earn" his new car? Does he have an inalienable right to own his car? Why can't I take his car that he doesn't deserve more than I do? Alexander's argument appears illogical.

  115. @Iris, you are identifying property as there lynchpin of freedom. The right to own property is not a right, it is a function of your ability to buy it and our legal system of property ownership. Ms. Alexander is referring to things not property , unless you believe that owning another human being is an inalienable right. The Hammurabi Code, the first known written code on governing and government, lists as the first, preeminent responsibility of the collective we identify as "The Government," to protect the weak from the powerful. It seems to me, it is this ideal, that those with power, and yes, property, have an ethical obligation to assist those with little or no power or property. If you happen to be among the believers of a deity, does your prophet say he will only bestow his blessings and forgiveness on those with the power and lots of property?

  116. @Iris Actually your analysis is illogical. You are comparing apples to oranges. Just what do immigrants "take" from this country? In my experience they mostly give their labor doing really hard jobs the citizens will not do, either from laziness or arrogance. They are exploited for low wages and long hours, then demonized to pump up the political power of those who exploit them.

  117. @Richard Nonsense, all of those jobs were done by Americans before illegal immigration. Likewise in Europe, there were guilds. My father was a carpenter, he started as a laborer, his job enabled him to raise a family and buy a house. Now, his job would be done by a guy someone picked up in a Home Depot parking lot for 50 bucks a day. I worked in a factory in NJ that employed illegals to package products for Wal-Mart and they had three shifts. They paid minimum wage to someone who supplied fake documents and then paid kick backs to them. They threw American applications (and there were many) in the garbage. They ignored labor laws and made a bunch of money off the backs of slaves that couldn't complain. If they were injured (and they were) they shoved them out the back door. What do you do with a Mexican roofer who falls off the roof, drive him to the Emergency room and leave them there. My kids couldn't get a job at a fast food restaurant because they didn't speak Spanish. My career started as a dishwasher and I work my way up, that paid for college. When was that last time you saw a teenager cutting a lawn? Remember Madge the manicurist? Yeah, now that function is perform by someone who doesn't speak the language? Every country in Europe and Canada hires laborers from other country for crops, but they have to pay airfares and guarantee they leave the country. You don't think there are enough engineers in America, no employers cheat and bring in H1B's.

  118. No dilemma for me. Citizenship is a privilege we don't deserve, which was bestowed on us by our heroic forefathers and mothers, and it entails obligations from us in return. What's more, I use the roads every day and never had to pay for them. They were already built when I was born. Antibiotics had already been discovered too. And there were clean water supplies already. Does anyone "deserve" this? No, it's something we should be grateful for every day.

  119. This article so eloquently gave a clear voice to the thoughts I've been having about the migrant crisis, or as Ai WeiWei puts it, the human crisis. I am not American, but second-generation Australian. Being an Australian citizen, there are many benefits that I have freely enjoyed. Some of these form a 'typical' checklist - affordable healthcare, free education. But ultimately, I live in a place where I feel, for the most part, safe - free from persecution, military warfare and structural violence. Did I do anything to deserve all these 'perks' (that many of us I am sure, take for granted)? No. In order to open our hearts to others, all the millions of them, we need to understand that. Here are innocent people, entirely blameless for their 'situation'. We need to fight fear with compassion, patience and understanding. We need our hearts open to be ready to heal the human crisis that is shaking our world.

  120. If you work to contribute to the community where you live, either by trying to make it better or at least not making it worse, you belong with that community. Through many tiny and large acts, we have each earned our right to be in the places we call home. Denying a person who seeks to be in a safe place and is willing to contribute to that place, actually makes us and the places we live worse. (If you think these people don’t contribute, drive through California’s Central Valley on a hot summer day and take a look at the people stooped over in the fields gathering your food.) It is not “open borders” to accept people into the country and give them the same chances to contribute that we and our families have had for generations. Churches accept new members to grow their membership and spread their message. Companies hire new employees to grow the business, add new ideas, and continually innovate. The people who join these social structures are accepted initially and then vetted over a period of time to ensure they can contribute to make the place better. America is supposed to be the greatest, strongest country in the history of the world, and yet we cower in fear before a young mother who wants to do right by her children. She wants to make their lives better by joining a community where they can work and contribute and she’ll travel hundreds of miles for the opportunity. She’s proven she has the potential make the place we live better. She deserves the chance.

  121. @M "Companies hire new employees to grow the business, add new ideas, and continually innovate." Companies don't hire whoever applies. They carefully select who they let in.

  122. I would be satisfied with a compromise over immigration in which those seeking entry would have it granted either on humanitarian grounds in case of amnesty applications, liberally and expeditiously applied on in exchange for meaningful contributions to this country through a contribution of a minimum of 50% time in needed areas of effort such as military service, working in service industries in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, etc. and the absence of any felonious criminal acts during a three to five year term. Basically either we grant you entry on humanitarian grounds or you earn the right to entry with sweat equity. The principle is simple. Those who have lived in an area get to have a say in who may join them and on what terms. Sounds okay, doesn't it? At one and the same, however, we need to understand these tenant rights have legs and should pari passu extend to the legacy residents. So, if a resident of western NY state despoils the Allegany River watershed, we should recognize the right of the Onondaga Nation to seek redress for grievous harm. Indeed, it should be the right of the First Nations to be the trustees of the lands and the environment they shared with us either through treaty or our usurpation. Fairness and equity demand we grant the same rules backward in time which we would seek to codify for the future good of the land on which we live. "We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children." - Chief Seattle

  123. The points Ms. Alexander is making seem to be based on a universal morality where humanity is seen as one, regardless of circumstances of birth or social condition. To the degree that the United States has aspired and striven to embody that ideal, it has been lauded. But the unprecedented challenges that are facing humanity as a whole can only be understood as the hallmarks of a transitional age, where the deepening understanding of humanity as one, must produce systems that can express that reality. We cannot fix this problem with the same mindset that created it.

  124. “Deserve” is largely a subjective moral sentiment. If we are alive, we all enjoy things that we didn’t earn and therefore don’t deserve. We all lack some blessings that others enjoy that we by accident of birth or fortune lack. Citizenship is among these. We are bound in the belief that every human being has certain natural rights. The duty to secure their political rights rests with the nation of which they are a citizen. The United States government has the duty to secure the rights of it its own citizens. It is necessary to the fulfillment of that task that it not take on the duty of other nations in that regard. P.S. We are not entirely a nation of immigrants anymore than any nation outside East Africa . None of my ancestors immigrated to the United States. They were all already here by various means and times. They created the United States.

  125. A rich person cannot alleviate poverty by giving away all their money and the U.S. cannot correct the failed states of the world by letting all their citizens join our country- no matter how unfair and cruel are their plights. Immigration policy can partially be based on helping the dispossessed with kindness and generosity but it must also be geared to what is best for the citizens of our own country. Open borders are not possible and immigration policy largely based on what most helps our own voters and economy should be clearly and unequivocally supported by Democrats. If Democrats stand for anything other than legal and responsible immigration policy we deserve the hit we will take at the polls on the matter.

  126. It isn’t a matter of being deserving or undeserving or moral or immoral. Every country, including the United States, has established laws regarding immigration and who is eligible for citizenship. Like every other country, the U.S. is entitled to make those laws based on what is best for the people who already live and work here. That includes setting immigration quotas and requiring immigrants who come here do so legally and be self supporting. Immigration — especially illegal immigration — comes at a cost to hospitals, schools, housing, charities, workers because illegal immigrants drive down wages, and other areas. Emma Lazarus’s poem is not in the Constitution or incorporated into any federal or state legal code. It was also written at a time when the U.S. had more need for unskilled labor than it does in our current age.

  127. @Bookworm8571 I'm a volunteer who works -- in a couple of places -- for nothing. My employers save on salaries. Probably, I am taking the job of a citizen who needs one. One of the things I do -- freely -- is teach English to speakers of other languages. Without asking if they're legal or illegal. Ha!

  128. @Honeybee Assuming Rea is a citizen she is free to do any job she wishes at any salary she and her employer agree on - including a zero salary. What's the problem ?

  129. @Bookworm8571 countries can make laws, but the author is merely asking us to see immigrants as human; to recognize the situation isn't simple; to acknowledge that we may not snap our fingers and know the exact right answer, but it certainly involves "far greater care, compassion, and concern than we have managed to muster to date".

  130. For 99.9% of us, our parents earned the right to bestow citizenship on us. Their lives, service and work gave them that right. We then have the responsibility to do similar work and service to bestow citizenship,on the next generation. We allow legal immigrants to earn that right by years of work and service. They in following that difficult path earn both citizenship for themselves and for their future born children. Only in extreme circumstances should someone just show up with no previous ties to the nation and gain that designation. If awarded, they have to do the work of two generations to bestow it on their children. That is how you define a nation.

  131. Imagine there's no countries. It isn't hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for. And no religion too. Imagine all the People, living life in peace. You may say I'm a dreamer..Well written opinion columns need some basis in reality I'm afraid. Most Americans, most Humans, would work to solve the world's humanitarian crises. The solutions need to be beneficial to all those impacted to work.

  132. @Bradley One day there will be one world. Just like the neighborhood we live in; but spread out more.

  133. There is a universal definition of human rights. There is no universal definition of citizenship. Since ancient Greece, every polity has defined what it means to be a "citizen," i.e., a member of the polity with rights and responsibilities. The author proposes to strip the power to define citizenship from Americans so that all 7.7 billion humans can claim the same entitlements as an American citizen. At the same time she condemns America as immoral. This is an argument guaranteed to fail in every way, while solidifying anti-immigration sentiment. I sympathize with the plight of children born into impoverished and violent societies. We need to look at how societies have solved these problems for themselves and help them on that path, rather than giving all 7.7 billion people the right to live in America. That is not a solution. It is not even physically possible. Why is Costa Rica functional while its neighbors to the north are falling apart? Countries succeed or fail for specific reasons. Mexico is proposing a plan to rebuild struggling Central American countries. We should help these societies heal and move forward, rather than throw out the concept of citizenship to justify opening the borders. Regarding colonialism, the imperial power in Mexico, Central America, and the Western US was SPAIN. I'm sure the author knows this, but it interferes with her attempt to shame America.

  134. Spain certainly was a colonial power. The US was just a better colonial power.

  135. @Heather 7.7 billion people do not want to live in America. Most if not all of the migrants seeking to come here would rather live where they're fleeing from. In Maryury's case, Honduras is a nightmare because of our drug policies and need for strongmen to protect our corporate exploitation of other nation's natural resources. After centuries of genocide, slavery and vulture capitalism you don't feel America deserves some shame?

  136. @Heather How, then, does a person become a U.S. citizen? Who gets to choose which of the 7.7 billion people on earth is allowed to become a U.S. citizen? Where did your family come from? When? Why? (How did Spain get into the conversation?)

  137. To have a civilization, the Rule of Law must be agreed upon by all members. If one can't agree to that in one's country of origin, one isn't going to agree in the new country. You may say you are different, but all around me the proof is in the actions of those who have recently arrived. No drivers' license, no insurance,illegal tenement situations, burden on schools and feeding stations, on and on, recreating the 2nd and 3rd world conditions rather than joining the 1st and agreeing to abide by the law as well as be a functioning member of the community.

  138. I deserve citizenship, morally and legally, because I was born in this country to legal citizens of this country who were also born here to legal citizens. All parents have a moral responsibility to love, safeguard, and teach the children they bring into this world. Those who live in this country are also legally bound to feed, clothe, house and protect their children, and to provide them with access to education. The "moral" obligation stems ultimately from what is instinctual to our animal selves. Most species of mammal behave in this same way. Most living things (excluding "prey" species) defend their homes/territory. Anything else is...something else, to be debated as you are doing here. I don't agree with the part of our law that declares that any child born on American soil is automatically a citizen. I think that is illogical, and is where a lot of the legal dilemma and moral confusion stems from. I would agree that we are all created equal, morally speaking. I do not agree that we are all equal legally. If you choose to question your own right to be here, I say it's your right to do that. But you have no right to question my right.

  139. @Allen We can't question your "right to be here" but you reserve the right to question our right to be here? That's the reactionary's dilemma right there, hypocrisy on a pogo stick.

  140. An excellent article, and I could not agree more. As an immigrant academic who has now lived in the USA for 22 years, I have always resented Americans who had punitive and distrustful attitudes towards immigrants, as if the mere fluke of having been born here somehow made them 'special' and gave them the privilege to diminish the rights of others. And if we are honest, these people are almost all conservatives.

  141. Some of us won the birthplace lottery and have mistakenly imbued this chance occurrence with meaning. Our self-righteous egos tell us that we are special (blessed, chosen, etc) and deserving of our citizenship when in reality we got lucky. Everyone is the hero of their own story as they say. Some came from somewhere else legally and wonder why others can’t do the same? Many of them were already doing well where they came from and/or they came in through doors that the Trump admin is slamming shut. Again, they naturally want to maximize the self-narrative where they are the hero of their own story who overcame great obstacles to get here playing by the rules. Some did overcome a lot (thinking Afghan translators for example) and some didn’t. Others are here because they (or their parents) risked it all to undertake an arduous and dangerous journey here, enter undocumented, and then perform menial tasks that privileged native born citizens consider beneath them. Who of the above mentioned folks has endured the most to prove themselves worthy of both feeling heroic and of citizenship? What more do they need to do to show the value of their character, fortitude, and resourcefulness than can be shown by just getting here and then prospering? No, most of us who were born here are not the best, the best are sending themselves. Maybe that’s why so many of us privileged few are so afraid of them.

  142. @Jason, I would assume that the migrants crossing the border are a mix of those with gumption and ambition and the desperate and the opportunistic, with some criminals tossed in. Some have skills, others have a sixth grade education and had two kids by 19 and will compete for low level jobs against equally disadvantaged American citizens. Most people are a mix of the goid and bad. But despite the guilt tripping and the need for immigration reform, NONE of this requires the U.S. to admit someone who has come here illegally and has not qualified for asylum.

  143. @Bookworm8571 - I do appreciate your nuanced thoughts. That said, Immigrants commit crimes at a rate about 40% to 85% lower than native born citizens according to numerous researchers. As for competing with native born citizens for jobs - I could introduce you to some farmers in my area that are struggling to get help in spite of raising the wages they pay. The fact is that most native born folks do not want to do that kind of work at any wage a farmer can afford to pay.

  144. @Jason Why should we accept anyone who commits crimes? If our immigration laws were followed correctly, immigrants would commit approximately 0% of crimes.

  145. Ms Alexander has forced us to face a profound, confounding, and extremely important moral question. I applaud her for doing so, and perceive that many, perhaps most, of the readers that have reacted negatively to the mere raising of this moral dilemma have found no true rebuttals or answers. In fact, many of the responses, perhaps inadvertently, try to shift the argument from one involving morality (as Ms Alexander proposes) to one based on legality, practical concerns, and/or self-interest. Now, law, pragmatism, and self-interest are all out there, and we must take these factors into account and deal with them. But Ms Alexander has reminded us that there is also a moral conundrum in our immigration policies that we may have been suppressing in our thoughts and disregarding in our deeds, without properly explaining why to ourselves.

  146. We are all Earthlings with the same rights and responsibilities. Borders do not confer or deny them. They are part of our humanity, not a legislative body or government. Free mobility is a human right. We have forgotten how we brutalized the Natives of the America's and doing so turned ourselves into liberators. " We hold these truths to be self evident that all mankind are created equal and enamored with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. " The time is long overdue to start living up to that.

  147. @Bob Cook - according to the document, they are NOT "enamored," they are endowed. To be "enamored" is to be in love with, and that may be the case, but that's not what document says.

  148. @Kathleen880 The word enamored was used in the Federalist Papers to describe Natural Rights. Maybe you shouldn't be so picky?

  149. Ms. Alexander has it all wrong. This country was BUILT from the shared ideas, labor and passion of generations. They pass this on with the hope that each new generation can carry the nation forward. This is not a birth "right", it is a birth RESPONSIBILITY. And only those who take that responsibility seriously can be welcome.

  150. @Landlord Bravo. And again, bravo.

  151. I believe in legal immigration and the laws governing this should take people’s suffering into consideration. I also believe that everyone should live in a world free of violence and unnecessary suffering. There are practical matters however. We need laws and closed boarders to protect the system and our current citizens. Unlimited immigration would be a strain on our resources and would impact everyone who is here, including people who have fought to earn a place here. We should do more to encourage nations to treat their citizens with respect so they don’t need to come here. Everyone deserves a safe home but America can’t practically be home to everyone who doesn’t currently have that.

  152. @John Since most people in this word suffer, whether it's poverty, crime, hunger etc. that would mean the whole world has a right to move here. That's not realistic.

  153. The premise of the article seems to be that anyone who wishes to do so should be able to come to the United States (or Europe, for that matter). That is just not plausible or possible.

  154. @Patrick Doyle Sadly as evidenced by this article, it is both plausible and possible to the left here in the US.

  155. But what about birth-tourism? Wealthy women from allover come to the US to give birth! No mention about that?

  156. Ms. Alexander has her own bias of who "deserves" US citizenship. It seems to be people who are poor and/or courageous. There are billions of people on the earth who fit at least one of her deserving categories. Many of them don't live near a US border, but on another continent. Why do we currently privilege those who live nearer to our borders? Could the others are as deserving or more deserving? She also say people deserve compassion and human rights. Yes, and they deserve it in their own countries! How can we enable that? Instead, as Ms.Alexander accurately writes: "... we cannot ignore the fact that our recent and current foreign policies, trade agreements and military adventures — including our global drug wars — have greatly contributed to the immigration crisis." She mentions Honduras, whose democratically elected president we helped remove in 2009. Since then corruption, violence, and migration have increased dramatically. Let's look at root causes and change what we do in Honduras and elsewhere before its citizens become desperate migrants.

  157. @Judy - You argue against the author by stating that everyone in the world meets either the standard or being poor or courageous. First, there are plenty of rich cowards outside the US and right now they can become citizens by donating a large sum of money to the US Government (Golden Visas). Second, the immigrants who are here meet three categories and not just one so you can’t equate them with the rest of the world. Yes, they are poor, Yes, they are courageous. However, they are also HERE - which means they are proven to be motivated, resourceful, focused, and capable. These are exactly the folks that our country needs and should welcome. The best are sending themselves.

  158. @Jason There own countries also need these "best" and motivated people. The brain and youth drain from poorer countries helps keep the poverty going decade after decade in the sending countries. Also, I do not argue that everyone is either poor or courageous, but, tragically, there are billions of such people on our earth. I also think buying one's way to US citizenship via a Golden Visa is reprehensible.

  159. Reasonable free association limitations to what would otherwise be chaos have been written into law by the existing citizens. We citizens, naturalized or not, define those with whom we want to associate and exclude others, such as those who break our laws by jumping over the borders, who don’t speak or ever want to speak our languages, who don't follow our customs, or contribute to our economy (Serrano-Hernandez will undoubtedly want welfare, free education and the rest based on the anchor baby concept.) It’s frankly that simple. We write laws that define who it is with whom we find it helpful to associate and reject many who don’t make the cut. Congress has the power to define citizenship. Strict laws may not have existed in 1850. They have changed to protect our evolving welfare state. They can be changed. The author of this article is at liberty to form a political group (association), to lobby congress or even to write in favor of changing our laws (press), reformatting how we the existing citizens and voters select those with whom we want to associate. They can change the laws so that Ms Serrano-Hernandez and 7 billion others in a large world can gain our citizenship, now redefined as not associating with us on our terms and to be entitled to whatever they demand of our material resources. We have the right of free association and Ms. Serrano-Hernandez has not made the cut entitling her to citizenship under our constitutionally written laws.

  160. Milton Friedman once noted that a country can have open borders or a strong welfare system—but it cannot have both simultaneously. This is the central problem that the US, Europe, and other countries with substantial government welfare programs are experiencing with immigration. A large influx of poor immigrants brings into conflict two moral and human rights issues: do we continue to provide healthcare, education, pensions, etc. to "citizens" or do we have an obligation to assist the poor regardless of location. Unfortunately, the economic reality will not allow both despite Alexander's argument. The reason we have our current system of political nation-states and borders, which have become more rigid with time, is because of the centrality of government in redistributing wealth within those borders. If borders are open to all, the modern welfare state will end. The debates now are around immigration and citizenship, but as more poor immigrants arrive, the debate will be around which benefits any citizen can have.

  161. An important point, but incomplete: it is quite possible to have open borders and a strong welfare system when there is no inequality across the border to drive migration across it. Striving to improve the lives of others has never been more important.

  162. @David Brook. If poverty were their only problem, money could solve it. But throwing money at corruption just wastes money. If Honduras modeled itself on Costa Rica, throwing money at it would be a joy.

  163. As one of the last Americans to be drafted I can tell you that I did indeed retroactively earn the citizenship that I was born with. I was brought up to believe that citizenship required certain things and brought responsibility, and perhaps that is why I allowed myself to be sent off to serve in a war I did not choose or even understand. While it is true that most Americans are not required to earn their citizenship, in earlier times some of us actually did.

  164. Righteous. Excellent and relevant reminders of our his/herstory and how standing up rather than standing down for our ideals is so critical. Otherwise, not only do we not deserve these rights and opportunities at birth, but we do not deserve them as adult citizens. Voting, protesting, reaching across the aisles and borders, understanding rather than caricaturing those from other regions of this country, engaging with our neighbors across boundaries that threaten to divide and limit are what make for a citizenry worthy of our ideals.

  165. One can be disgusted with Trump's rhetoric and tactics and still recognize the practical contradiction of a right to healthcare or a universal basic income with open boarders. To say that, "we ought to manage immigration in a manner that honors the dignity, humanity and legitimate interests of all concerned" does little to enlighten readers about what such a policy would entail in practice.

  166. Well said! In remote places along borders (e.g. big bend national park) you get a perspective about how arbitrary they really are, which puts the arbitrary-ness of citizenship in perspective On a different but related note, I’ve often thought that free trade should go along with free movement of labor.

  167. @David Brook Thank you. If capital can move freely around the world, labor should do so as well. Abraham Lincoln said "Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if Labor had not first existed. Labor is superior to capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."

  168. @David Brook Yes, When corporations are allowed to freely move their capital, headquarters, and operations across open borders (unfettered free trade!), while workers are supposed to wait decades to immigrate legally, yet another crushing advantage has been given to the owners of capital over those that actually do the work.

  169. @David Brook The problem is that all of the capital wants to go out of the country to where the cheap labor is, and all of the labor wants to come in. Now if you can work it out that free movement of labor works both ways, and i can waltz into Switzerland to set up home and shop, maybe we can work something out.

  170. A deeply moving piece by a gifted writer, complemented by many thoughtful reader responses, varying in their point of view, but uniform in their refusal to brand the asylum seekers as terrorists seeking to destroy the US. That said, while Ms. Alexander denies that she favors open borders, she offers the reader no criteria by which to determine who would be allowed to enter this country under a humane immigration policy. A country's control over its own borders stems from a need more basic even than moral consistency. No nation can survive in the absence of a capacity to protect is own security, which includes the power to determine who can cross its borders and under what conditions. In the last century, America has often needlessly allowed ethnic prejudice to distort its immigration policies, but that is a separate issue from determining how many newcomers we will accept. It does no good to stress the immigrant character of our population, because that fact does not create obligations more vital than our need to survive as a nation. Climate change over the next few decades may well increase the pressure on our border to the breaking point. While there is still time, we need to devise a humane, sensible immigration policy which, to the extent possible, meets the needs of new arrivals while still protecting the welfare of our citizens. We may no longer be able to serve as a refuge for huddled masses, but we can certainly improve on the president's policy.

  171. Michelle Alexander believes that America's immigration laws should be conceived in reaction to past injustices, rather than concern for present circumstances or anticipation of the nation's future needs. This is the lens through which America's Far Left filters all matters of public policy in the 21st century — outcomes must fulfill a moral obligation of restorative justice, never mind how many lifetimes ago the perceived transgression. In this worldview, jus soli becomes a mere extension of the notion of "white privilege:" a set of rights and liberties afforded by birth to some, but not others. Ergo, it is unjust; ergo, it is immoral. The logical conclusion of this revisionist concept of citizenship is one in which it is granted to all those who deserve it. And who, exactly, "deserves" it? Ms. Alexander offers a metric, the only one deemed legitimate by thought leaders on the American Left: oppression, of course. I happen to believe that we need a simpler, more generous, and more robust immigration policy — but unlike Ms. Alexander, I am clear-eyed that unfettered migration would also mean potentially destabilizing political and ecological consequences. In the long run, the world's peoples are best served by peace and progress in their own nations and communities; it is a far nobler pursuit for the United States to replicate our experiment in self-governance throughout the world, than to vacuum up the world's oppressed out of a misguided, moralistic sense of restitution.

  172. @Michael Unfortunately for your argument, the immigrants coming in caravans from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, are fleeing the effects of our current policy in Central America. These are the capitalist "success" stories that are doing what we asked of them, because the governments that were taking care of their own people were overthrown with our help. These countries have fully implemented Supply Side Economics, the American Consensus, and Austerity. They cut taxes on the rich and global corporations. They cut the social safety nets and investments in healthcare, education, and infrastructure for the people. They deregulated finance and deregulated extractive industries. To keep the People from fighting for control of government policy (democracy), our foreign intelligence agencies help the governments we installed with military coups terrorize their people by giving impunity to paramilitary organizations that murder and torture journalists, human rights activists, labor, activists, indigenous peoples, etc. I am for borders, but they must be managed wisely, not not be used as political footballs with neither side offering real solutions. The USA must be responsible for our foreign policy. We must protect the rights of workers and speed up legal, vetted immigration. Most importantly we have to stop letting global billionaires use fake arguments to justify open borders for their corporations which are looting or country, and get them out of policy.

  173. We "earn" our citizenship in the US by bearing the responsibilities that citizenship implies. The most basic is participation in the institutions of democracy - becoming educated and voting, for example. Beyond that, actively organizing, paying taxes, fighting in the armed services, etc. are further responsibilities that endow us with true citizenship. Just being born here is an accident, belief in the system and participation in its institutions is what makes us citizens and what gives the best of those institutions a chance to thrive.

  174. @mijosc Yes, freedom is both a right and a responsibility. Freedom is something we have to protect for others so they can protect it for us. Being a citizen of a Democratic Republic requires that all citizens take time from their lives to help govern, to track what their government does, and hold them accountable for doing the right thing. Every time We the People get comfortable, we get lazy, and soon out government is being hijacked and the law and law enforcement being used against us. The biggest problem citizens have today is not the immigrants coming in but the productive capital flowing out. Global corporations are looting or nation, shipping our machinery and raw materials out as fast as they can. Last year the Republicans gave corporations that move their operations out out the USA a 10% tax rate, which is half the the 20% rate for profits earned in the USA. This is a another subsidy for exporting jobs. All three branches of government have spent 130 years elevating corporations from fictitious persons intended to serve us to People with the rights of Citizens. The real drain on human U.S. citizens is not powerless immigrants but the usurpation of the power of We the People by corporations we chartered to benefit us, not replace us. The right has been hoodwinked into believing that the poor steal all of the money. That is mathematically impossible. The people who stole the money are the people that have the money, the global .1%. Govern your Republic

  175. @McGloin: First of all, I'm absolutely NOT talking about freedom. I'm talking about a construct that, in order to work, requires active participation by its "members". I happen to be for open borders. But I also believe that people have to be trained, literally, to be part of a liberal democracy. And as much as the US and other western powers failed to empower the people they have been exploiting these past 500 years, it is just as true that the lands the west colonized and exploited had their own traditions and were in any case going to resist western institutions. (Interesting though, how many embrace both the religious and fascist western exports.) So who's to blame? No point in even going there. However, moving forward, as you state, we are in a global economy, a shrinking world. The answer is not to bemoan the power of corporations but to utilize the connections they have established to promote institutions that benefit as many people as possible. I believe in free trade, but also the right of workers to organize, including across national borders. Maximum opportunity, maximum responsibility. Greed is the enemy of a free economy; the moochers are the destroyers of socialism.

  176. As the great economist Milton Friedman once said, "It's just obvious you can't have free immigration and a welfare state." As a liberal, I long for universal health care, free quality preschool education, free access to community colleges, and free access to minimal public housing. If we threw open our borders, none of that would be possible. Billions of people, and I mean that literally, would stream across our border in search of those benefits.

  177. @Netwit The solution to that problem is to stop demanding that all of the other countries drop their social safety nets to give massive tax cuts to global corporations. If the other countries had universal healthcare, free education, and decent infrastructure, and were not ruled by right wing thugs that we support with military and coverrt action, for example All Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, then people would not have a reason to leave the land of their birth. We export Supply Side Economics, backed by military aid, and support for state terror by paramilitaries that operate with impunity, then wonder why people leave their country to come to the home of the global corpoate empire. These caravans come from the capitalist "success" stories in Central America, that have done exactly what we forced them to do: impoverish the People on behalf of global corporations. If we keep following Republican economics, soon caravans will be heading north from the U.S., because supply side fails. Yes the borders should be enforced. However, we must end the drug war, which pokes it full of holes, stop demanding other countries abuse workers for corporate profit, stop supporting state terror by our allies (many of our allies kill journalists, labor, and human rights activists routinely, for example), make legal immigration much faster and less frustrating while thoroughly sorting out bad actors, encourage U.S. capital to stay not leave, and give all workers the same strong protections.

  178. Ms. Maryury Elizabeth Serrano-Hernandez has exhibited more courage and love for her children than nearly anyone I have known. I have lived well and responsibly and love my children and grandchildren deeply. I served 3 years in the US Army andI have never had to make a sacrifice as profound as hers. Shame on every American who enables the current cruelty and callous rejection of these desperate women, children and men. The GOP controlled House just voted for nearly $6 billion in border vigilance. A nation with a heart and soul would appropriate that sum and more to open our hearts to people who yearn for the freedom we take for granted - or abuse - every day.

  179. "On what moral grounds can we deny others rights, privileges and opportunities that we did not earn ourselves?" Yes - the idea of citizenship is immoral because it arbitrarily excludes people. The idea of countries is also immoral. But the arguments for not granting everyone citizensip aren't moral - they're pragmatic. Everyone can't be a US citizen - if that was the case then the country wouldn't function, or at least it wouldn't function as well as it does. We need robust legal processes through which people can immgrate or request asylum. But advocating for granting citizenship to anyone who wants it "because it's morally correct" is not a good option. In the future perhaps borders will dissolve, mankind will unite, and we'll have no need for countries or citizenship. It ain't the future yet, though.

  180. Most of us are raised by a parent or two who give us benefits we have not earned. No one says because we did not earn those benefits we have no more rights to special treatment than anyone else; our parents should care equally for any child who shows up at their door. Occasionally a family adopts a child and often we give charity for the needy but no one says it is the obligation of families to welcome every child and fully incorporate them into our families. Has Ms. Alexander lived her life sharing every thing she and her family has with everyone who shows up in need.

  181. "Statue" of Liberty. Although given the context, maybe "Statute" of Liberty is more appropriate.

  182. I believe that the word “deserve” is a dangerous one that is best used more carefully than it is in this op-ed. I believe that the founding fathers articulated that each human being is entitled, by definition, to the opportunity to pursue happiness - to the extent that it does not infringe on the same entitlement afforded to other human beings. The benefits of the lifestyle that United States Citizens enjoy are not an automatic entitlement of all human beings by birth; they are the result of adhering and contributing to the greater good of our nation by following the laws as they exist and exercising the patient and peaceful process defined for reforming those laws as the majority sees fit. It is conveniently simplistic and irresponsible to assume that any human being who is discontented - and indeed may be suffering - and wants to enjoy the benefits of American citizenship, “deserves to” regardless of their willingness to follow United States immigration processes as they exist. There is a reason for this and that is that without due process there will eventually be no benefits left for anyone to “deserve”.

  183. Thanks, Michelle. I have often wondered what would upper middle class parents do if a law were passed that said their each of their children born here would have to be switched with a child born somewhere else, say Eastern Europe or Africa? Being born in America is like winning the lottery. Being born middle class and white in America is different from being born middle class and white in France or Lithuania. Once Americans recognize how lucky they were to born here, maybe they'll stop thinking that all that this country offers them is a right. Perhaps it's best to think of being born here as a gift, and especially this Christmas season, we all know how valuable giving is, especially when the gift is a child.

  184. What ever happened to this: https://www.desiderata.com/desiderata.html Here's the relevant quote: You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. No one asks to be born poor, hungry, or in a country where having a good life is next to impossible. To criminalize the attempt to seek a better life is the height of foolishness. After all, many of our ancestors emigrated here for the very same reasons people are trying to come here now.

  185. . @hen3ry, get current. Some of our ancestors came to the US in shackles in slave ships. So because our ancestors did it is no reason to repeat it 100s of yrs later .

  186. The immigration debate desperately needs the introduction of hard facts and historical perspective. Too much of the debate is driven by hyberole, unhinged almarmism, ignorance and plain xenophobia. During the Mexican Revolution of 1910, most of my ancestors fled the violence in their homeland and settled in West Texas. They were among hundreds of thousands war refugees. The border then was truly wide open. The Border Patrol wasn't created until 1924. Most of my family were comfortably set in Mexico as business owners and ranchers. The sense of peril, however, was too great. They and their descendants all went on to success as business owners, professionals and became citizens. Immigration is mostly an economic phenomenon, and not a political or police problem as we exclusively treat it. Immigrants will come if their are economic opportunities for them. There is a major contradiction, however, border cops work to stop the immigrants. But if they manage to escape detention they will find work and economic betterment. They will settle in to lives in many ways similar to those of legal residents. Thus, why the alarmist talk of an invasion? The alarm is over one thing: the steady browning of America. Finally, during my years in Mexico, I learned an important truth. The would-be-immigrant is the exception. Mexicans typically love their country and would not trade it for uncertain futures in an increasingly hostile land to the north.

  187. What nonsense. My Ukrainian grandfather came to this country LEGALLY and worked on a farm in upstate NY for 20 years, sending for his family after he had saved the money. My great-grandparents didn’t travel from the Ukraine and Ireland and illegally enter the country for the express purpose of delivering a child on US soil so as to make it a citizen. Yes, I deserve citizenship. My family worked extremely hard for that right.

  188. @Mike - most likely the legal door your grandfather came through is closed now. Also, it probably was always only open to white European immigrants to begin with. You cannot equate the opportunity your grandfather had with what is available to a Central American migrant because the Central American migrant doesn’t have the same options available to your grandfather and probably never did.

  189. @Jason you clearly have no idea of the hurdles crossed by those who came here from places like the Ukraine and Ireland 100 years ago. Did you ever hear the term "Irish need not apply."? We have never been a nation that welcomed immigrants. Each new wave finds resistance and pays a price. A visit to Ellis Island is a real eye opener.

  190. @Jason oh, you mean life isn't fair? Well knock me over with a feather! First of all, my grandfather wrote extensively about the trips my great-grandfather took to Kyiv (as he writes it) to get his travel documents to come to the US. This Central American "migrant" has plenty more opportunities to get into this country than my great-grandfather - he had one: legally, across the Atlantic Ocean, papers in hand. He couldn't simply get my great-grandmother pregnant and push her over a wall at 9 months. Furthermore, it makes absolutely no difference whether the avenue available to him is still there or not. Heroin was once available in the Sears-Roebuck catalog. It's different now. But to say I have no MORAL right to find his woman's actions offensive is absurd. My great-grandfather worked and saved for YEARS, legally, in this country before he could even bring his family here. And his son, my grandfather, joined the Marines at 17 and went off to the Korean War, then came home and put 4 kids through college. One of those kids, my mother, worked extremely hard to be the snot-nosed brat that I am, living in a beautiful home with a great job, a wonderful family, and more indulgence than anyone could ever ask for. And I worked my behind off to get where I am. So don't tell me I don't morally deserve citizenship in the country my family has lived, worked, contributed to and paid taxes in for going on 100 years. I certainly don't "deserve" Guatemalan citizenship.

  191. Two generations of my family fought and bled for this country. Go away.

  192. @manta666 Only two?

  193. This article is so deeply confused that it is difficult to unwind it. Here's the problem: From the fact that none of us "deserve" our citizenship, it does not follow that citizenship may be assigned to anyone. Broadly, we do not deserve many of our personal advantages, such as good looks, intelligence, or wise parents. They are arbitrary. A matter of luck. But these attributes are still ours and not someone else's. For instance, from the fact that I did not deserve the upbringing I received from the wonderful parents I happened to be born to, it does not follow that my parents may be assigned to other children. Or, that other children have a right to move into my house and have my parents bring them up. Granted, my good parents are an advantage that is entirely undeserved. But the reallocation of my parents does not follow from my lack of desert. So, too, with many other things that are undeserved but are nevertheless attributes that we have and others do not have. I suspect that citizenship or residency in an advantaged place may be one of them. Whether it is wise and good to allow us to retain advantages and the fruits of those advantages must follow from some other principles that the author is unable to identify. 'Nuf for now....

  194. The article makes some good points though I think that as a practical matter immigration must be well-managed for all sorts of obvious reasons. What troubles me, however, is the anti-immigrant arguments posed by most of the commentators here that make the implicit assumption that immigrants will perpetually be “takers” and this will overwhelm any hope of continuing the welfare state. This seems ridiculous to me. All of us are from immigrant stock and we are relentlessly paying taxes; there is no reason to think that new immigrants will not achieve the same status in a few generations or less. In fact, in Philadelphia immigrants from Mexico, China,Vietnam, India and countless other corners of the globe have completely revitalized many parts of our city that were slinking slowly or rapidly over the last few decades; they are working, employing others, and paying taxes and far from burdening the welfare state, they are generally more likely to take care of their own people than those of us who have totally melted into the American mainstream. Also, I might add that the idea that educating our people, including new arrivals, is a “burden” is utterly preposterous; the experience of centuries proves that education is an essential investment that pays off in major ways.

  195. I would much prefer to live among people like Ms. Serrano-Hernandez, who risked everything to help her family -- the cream of the motivational crop -- than among entitled brats like the Trumps, whose position is based entirely on the blood, sweat and tears to a father or grandfather, or great-grandmother and great-grandfather. Or, for that matter, among less privileged and entitled native born Americans who wouldn't deign to do the work many undocumented workers do for us, who themselves benefit from social welfare programs (maybe legitimately, maybe not), and who tell stories about hardworking undocumented and documented immigrants being burdens on taxpayers (with both these groups, for different reasons, unlikely to be carrying much of our tax burden), despite all of the facts gathered and presented and available over decades. Those who choose to demonize entire groups on the basis of the behavior of the few, but would complain if anyone demonized them on the basis of the behavior of a majority of them. Citizenship, like wealth, in most cases, is an accident of birth. There's no evidence that the Walton kids, or the Koch kids, or the Devos kids, or Mnuchin, or the Kushner kids or the Trump kids would have achieved anything without their parents and grandparents achievements - and in the case of Kushner (and Mnuchin and Trump, for that matter), grandparents who would not be admitted to this country under the standards that daddy-in-law now demands.

  196. American citizenship has always been a category of exclusion—it was intended by the founding fathers to exclude and it is now being used to exclude. Alexander is not arguing for immediate open borders, but she IS pointing out the problem with using citizenship as a moral category—as if it makes one person more deserving than another—and this is what happens over and over in American discourse. Even liberals seem to have a special lament for those times when the Trump administration has violated the rights of a US citizen as opposed to an undocumented person—as if this is somehow an even more depraved transgression. The point is to preserve for everyone equally the space that we reserve for the concept of human dignity. That is difficult work and it does imply radical change, but isn’t it worth it?

  197. The idea of waiting your turn in line is as so ancient as to not require explanation. You could not cut in from of Ms Alexander at the deli without her making a ruckus. The people waiting in a tent enclave to cross the border illegally into the US, upon returning to their sleeping bag and gallon of water after perhaps a day of hopeful protest, expect their simple things to be there waiting for them unmolested, and their simple space empty, ready for them to occupy it for the night. Such is the same for a nation, with greater considerations. When you have to explain this to someone who is forcefully adamant to have some of your spot and your space, it does boggle the mind.

  198. People of color need to remember at all times that their ancestors were literally dragged to the Western Hemisphere either before or during the existence of the USA. And once here, enslaved until they were given the opportunity to fight for the Union and help destroy the slave power. We owe the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the struggle of newly freed black people to enfranchise themselves. No one among us is more qualified to discuss this citizenship and enfranchisement issue as Alexander has done with great tact and consideration.

  199. Way to elect Republicans, Michelle. Which side of the border one is born on does not negate borders. If Dems aren't willing to defend borders, they will not be put in charge of defending them.

  200. Some of you say the world's poor don't have an automatic right to move here and 'be supported by taxpayer funds'. Do you not realize that a) the world's poor are moving here IN ORDER TO WORK and therefore increase the tax base? b) Affluent people rarely want or need to move in the first place, so the entire European population of the New World was formed by people fleeing poverty and persecution? Perhaps none of you have examined your own family histories in enough detail. Shame.

  201. Why not give everyone who crosses our open borders a million dollars, too, to help ease their burdens. I'm not for a wall, but I'm for legal immigration where everyone is subject to the same basic rules. But someone has to be a sane adult on this issue. It's one thing to be caring to the extant one can reasonably be, and quite another to believe we can solve all the world's problems by letting in whomever wishes to come. There are hundreds of millions of people around the world that are poor, don't have enough to eat, don't have jobs, live under tyranny, or under the threat of violence or war, etc. We can't throw open our door to any who wants in, we can't take proper care of the poor who live here now and are already citizens. The US, like every other nation, has a right to know who enters, and the right to have rules and laws for doing so. The whole process should be orderly, and as fair and practical as possible, but it can't be based on the good hearted fool approach of this columnist.

  202. I would argue that US is obliged to invade all these countries that send political/financial refugees and impose US laws, economy, culture, develoment, lawns, malls etc ... no one should have to take a harrowing trip to enjoy what is rightfully theirs.

  203. I am troubled by some of the comments to this piece. Absent is any compassion for fellow citizens of this planet, of which we all are. That should be the focus first and foremost. Of course we cannot have open boarders and allowing someone entry to our country has to have controls. The basis for those controls however should not be racist, alarmist or self-righteousness. The plight of some of the people seeking entry to our country can be attributed to our foreign policy or lack of it where they are seeking to leave. How we as a nation cannot consider that is wrong. Resources should be applied to deal with the plight of people seeking entry, rather then walls, troops and hysteria. We should not be guided by a myopic leader who hides behind walls.

  204. I deserve my citizenship because I obeyed the law. Activists for illegal migrants believe even criminal aliens deserve to stay here in the USA and gain citizenship. Alexander advocates for a policy based on nothing, to let anyone in just because. That's not good enough for a civilized nation state. Effectively, we do have open borders. Just say the word "asylum" and you are in, and most likely will stay for the rest of your life, with a good attorney.

  205. [Answering these questions may be easy legally, but they’re more difficult morally. After all, none of us born here did anything to deserve our citizenship. On what moral grounds can we deny others rights, privileges and opportunities that we did not earn ourselves?] The recognition of a person as a citizen of any country is a legal construct. It is not earned by anyone. And it is not morally based, if it were then you would not have had this: + The Naturalization Act of 1790 that allowed only a European that was a "free white person" to become a citizen. + In 1870 the law was amended to include "persons of African descent" + In the early 1920s, the Supreme Court "clarified" the meaning of the phrase "free white persons," ruling that ethnically Japanese, Indian, and other non-European people were not "white persons", and were therefore ineligible for naturalization under U.S. law. In that year it also finally bestowed citizenship for American Indians. + The Immigration Act of 1924 aimed at further decreasing immigration of specifically Italians and Eastern European Jews, though it also targeted other Southern and Eastern Europeans, including Greeks, Poles, and Slavs in general. To enforce it it set up "quotas" for each country. Today, we still have a quota system whereby each country is allocated a spot based on rules that are "fluid". Ms Alexander's argument is compelling but when it comes to the morality of earning citizenship, that's largely absent.

  206. Whoa! Why is EVERYTHING these days considered a human “right!” Everything is decidedly not a right. And everyone is NOT created equally. Just look around you and I would venture to say that no two people on earth are equal. Even identical twins are not equal in everything. But... people are equal under the LAW. We are a country (and supposedly a world) of laws. And the same laws that give us equality in some things require us to obey the law to keep that. Those laws do not provide for open borders. Millions upon millions have entered the USA over centuries by following our laws and applying for entry. It worked before when people were fleeing unbelievable brutality in European wars and it can work now. But oh no! Now it’s a “right” to justify total disregard for immigration law. Instead of a wall, I would spend the money increasing immigration application processing centers, both physical buildings and online, 50 fold so decisions could be made in days to weeks instead of months to years. Then there would be no excuse for breaking immigration law. And those that do enter legally will never have to worry about that unexpected “knock at the door” or suffer at the hands of unscrupulous employers who threaten to call the INS as leverage for low wages etc.

  207. What did I do to deserve having been born healthy? After all, there are millions of babies who are born with life-threatening genetic disorders, who will never walk, or talk, or be smart enough to get a PhD. So should I maim myself to even the odds? The moral absolutism of this article is as scary as it is (fortunately) impractical. Nation states are not moral entities, nor should they be. They exist for the purpose of providing their citizens with legal and military protection, and more broadly, with a sense of belonging and shared destiny. Who may be a citizen is a complicated question but it is regulated by cultural mores and practical considerations, not by abstract moral discourse that always has the tendency to mutate into extremism, intolerance and violence. The US today is not the US of the 1900s when the country needed people. Today we cannot afford accepting immigrants on the basis of morality rather than legality. Morally speaking, it is at least arguable that a mother of 8 children has a better claim than a highly qualified single scientist. But privileging her claim over his is tantamount to forcing me to break my legs to “atone” for the fact that I won the genetic lottery.

  208. @Mor Yes, always use a basis for citizenship that favors yourself.

  209. Thank you so much for this essay, Ms. Alexander. We have created a lot of the upheaval that causes people to leave their homes. But we won’t take responsibility, any more than we take responsibility for our genocide of Native Americans and our enslavement of Africans. We today act as if we’re an innocent country, that only does good in the world. Poor us, claims Trump. We repeatedly forget history. Our bombing Iraq, for example, lead to the destabilization of the Middle East. Our policies in Central America are atrocious. We must take responsibility for who we are and what we’ve done.

  210. Examine your own history before condemning folks, my own father was an anchor baby in 1923 in Little Italy. Born 10 months After my grandparents arrived because Italians were undesirables and the law was changed to limit emigration. Some things never change.

  211. Michelle: You could have simply said that we should be more compassionate about the plight of some of those who are trying to enter our country. We did not need a self-flagellatory column about how immoral we are when we insist on enforcing our immigration laws.

  212. @Jay Orchard She’s an intellectual and a columnist because she doesn’t need to ask anyone what “we did not need”.

  213. Anyone who does not have at least some Native American blood is an illegal alien in America. Not all the distorted stories about how most of our ancestors got here, nor the self-congratulating claims of having earned our citizenship, nor the implied or overt insistence on racial superiority, nor the deep insecurity and hatred motivating so-called nationalists, can change that fact. It’s long past time for a little humility, empathy, and common sense in building a home of which we can all be proud and in which we are all respected.

  214. I’m an atheist raised Christian, but when talking to my overwhelmingly right wing and Christian friends I always ask the same question: which are more important, the laws of the USA or the teachings of the Lord? Do you sacrifice the comfort of your home, community and country with some extra crowding and ancillary (primarily positive) effects of liberal immigration policies in order to provide food, shelter, safety and education to children living in poverty and fear with little hope for a better future? What is your argument at the Pearly Gates for denying a child a future or a mother a safe neighborhood (not to mention a father)? Nobody seriously argues for open borders but surely, when you put the racism aside, we can do better. After all, even if your life on this earth gets harder, you have an eternity to relish your good deeds in heaven. For me, making a person’s life, even if we only have one, especially if we only have one, hopeful, safer and joyful is worth a little risk and discomfort.

  215. Morality can and should inform policy but moral absolutism as a prescription for policy, however well-intentioned at the start, invariably ends poorly as unintended consequences pile up. We are moral creatures, but also social ones for whom a sense of cohesion is important. Indeed, many problems in the USA seem to stem from a lack of cohesion. As uncomfortable a reality as it may be to admit, even liberals have a line as to how much immigration is too much. To pretend otherwise is to confirm the worst suspicions of the worst of the Trumpists.

  216. I guess Ms Alexander is saying she doesn't "deserve" her US citizenship. If so, Ms Alexander must be an example and lead the way, doing the right thing: she must present herself before a Consular official of the United States of America and return it. I'm sure someone else will want it.

  217. @Gandolf the White That’s not how citizenship works, but I’m sure that you know that.

  218. @Gandolf the White - yes, she is saying she doesn't "deserve" her citizenship. Ever heard the expression "there but for the grace of God go I"? Reflect.

  219. @scsmits. Actually, you can renounce your citizenship. It’s not transferable.

  220. I remember when the United States of America turned its back on six million people who were doomed to die. Has anyone kept a count of the number of people yearning to be free we've turned our backs on since then?

  221. @Rea Tarr Who are you referring to?

  222. @Rea Tarr: even as a Jew who lost family in the Holocaust ... that is unfair and ridiculous. FDR did turn away a ship loaded with Jewish refugees, which then had to take them back to Nazi Germany, where they all were killed. A horrible incident. But until after the war, nobody really knew the extent of the Nazi death camps. My uncle was among those soldiers who helped liberate the camps, and I have the photos he took of them. Those soldiers, some of them Jewish Americans, were profoundly shocked at what they saw -- the world did not know, not yet. In any event, the US of 1940 could not have taken in ALL six million Jews -- it would have been impossible. They COULD have taken in those who presented as true refugees from Hitler's Nazi party, as they had reasonable evidence of religious persecution (*unlike the despicable criminal Maryury Serrano Hernandez) but Germany was a heck of a lot further away than Central America and across a vast ocean. There was no "walking here in a peaceful caravan provided with food and diapers" in 1940. A different world and a different situation.

  223. @Rea Tarr No, the US and several other nations turned away a ship with a small number of refugees. If this nation knew six million Jews were to be murdered by the Nazis, we certainly would have accepted those refugees and millions more.

  224. Thank you for so soberly articulating what I've been thinking and feeling for years. Those so-called nativists in the US, receiving birthright citizenship just because their European ancestors moved in and squatted on North American soil (the "I touch it's mine" kind of nation building), birthed just enough in the way of anchor babies to displace first Nations people, don't deserve citizenship any more than anyoneelse. The closer one is to a refugee ancestor, the more likely (I hope) one is to feel compassion for those who risk all to cross the line separating hope from fear, safety from danger, compassion from callous distain.

  225. Ms Alexander writes with conviction and empathy. Her excellent book, "The New Jim Crow," made me question my understanding of the impact of the drug laws on black urban America. Her thesis was right; the laws have proven to be a disaster. That said, Ms Alexander's contention that none of us born into our country deserves citizenship any more than the illegal immigrants may be moral, but is hopelessly naive. Couching her contention in the history of our founding documents and founding ancestors as hypocritical to open borders is a guilt trip that doesn't work. As a sentient, empathetic person, Ms Alexander is morally right to express her outrage that the Honduran caravan is not welcomed by the US. Yes, our country was founded upon an idea and defined by laws. Yes, those imperfect white men and their 19th century followers did conquer the indigenous peoples of this continent. They also either countenanced slavery (up until the Civil War) or practiced it. That is historical reality. They were characteristic of their historical context. That may not wash for the morals of today, but it was the norm of their times. Today, our country has evolved into an imperfect nation, run by imperfect politicians not leaders, and populated by an imperfect people. But in the current geo political context of our time, border controls are necessary and just. Should the poor of Central America wish to enter the US according to the current immigration laws, they are able to do so.

  226. @TDurk I too learned much from Ms. Alexander's excellent work The New Jim Crow. This thoughtful article on immigration is in the spirit of that work, reflecting (as you say) the "imperfect" evolution of our country and the laudable moral principles which we have historically professed. It seems to me you misapprehend Ms. Alexander's point. Nowhere does she suggest that we should not have necessary and just border controls. Her point is that the present laws and policies are inadequate, poorly conceived, and unjust, and our attitudes about immigration are both mindless and heartless. Trump's stupid policy of build a wall and keep everybody out is attractive to some because it makes immigration policy easy to understand, and his characterization of these people as criminals and rapists is both bigoted and absurd. In many areas, immigrants would be beneficial. Ms. Alexander's point seems to me to be that we need immigration laws and policies that reflect both our history and the moral principles we have long professed - that is, who we are - meet our social and economic needs, and reflect compassion and justice toward genuine refugees and those seeking to make this their home. Also, for the past 75 - 100 years, our policies and "interventions" in Central America have contributed significantly to the barbaric rule and criminal violence from which many who approach our southern border are seeking refuge. We should recognize a degree of responsibility.

  227. What really drives illegal immigration is not our immigration policy. It is the prospects of successful illegal crossing. A study done by the DHS indicates that about half who try to cross are successful. And the chances improve for those who can afford a guide. The odds of successful entry are what determines the numbers who attempt to cross illegally. The process is less about legal rights and more about the prospects of success. As long as there is a reasonable chance of successful crossing, those living in abject poverty will continue to come. And the numbers show that millions have successfully crossed. No other country hosts as many illegal immigrants.