Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Liberty and Justice for All?

Since the early days of kindergarten, children in the United States have learned to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. However, until recently, I could not truly appreciate the meaning behind the words “with liberty and justice for all”. What made me understand these words more clearly was not my love and passion for this country, but President Obama’s decision to file a lawsuit against Arizona’s new immigration law this past Tuesday.

The new law, which would order immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times and requires police to question people if there's reason to suspect they're in the United States illegally, is not only unjust, but is also unconstitutional.

I completely understand the need for stricter immigration reform. I am in full support of our American workers and those that obey the laws, and agree that people who break our laws should be punished. But at what cost?

We need to ensure that we, first and foremost, uphold our American values of equality, liberty, and justice for all. America is a nation comprised of immigrants. We pride ourselves on our multiculturalism, yet we decide to act in ways that prohibit and restrict those very ideals we preach throughout the world. The new law invites racial profiling against people of color by law enforcement, thus harming people’s civil rights and opening doors to police harassment of U.S. citizens and foreigners. If you do not think this new law would invite such hardships, ask yourself this question: How would you determine who looks like an “illegal immigrant?” Chances are you’re not thinking of a white male. Where’s the justice in this?

Not to mention that Arizona’s new law unconstitutionally interferes with federal power and authority over immigration matters. Enforcing immigration laws is a federal responsibility, not a state’s. Immigration law, policy, and enforcement priorities are affected by and have impacts on U.S. foreign policy, and are themselves the subject of diplomatic arrangements. For the same reason we do not allow states to have their own foreign policies, we should not allow states to conduct their own immigration laws.

Some opponents are making it a point to emphasize the fact that a majority of Arizona’s residents actually support the new law. However, the fact that a majority of people support it does not make it just. If the civil rights movement was based on popularity, then surely it would not have been passed, and we would be living in a very different America.

And for those that argue we should simply put the illegal immigrants on a boat and deport them, consider this-we have over 11 million undocumented and illegal workers living in the country. It is unrealistic and unfeasible to ask them all to leave. Instead, as Obama and other democrats have argued, create a legal pathway to citizenship. They will still have to pay a fine, learn English, and wait at the back of the line for those that apply for citizenship legally, but will provide us with greater prosperity. Just imagine adding over 11 million new workers who pay taxes and add to our economic well-being.

Republicans these days are sounding much like those very same people who persecuted, racially profiled, and drove out the Jewish people in Eastern Europe a little more than a century ago- “foreigners must carry identification cards with them at all times, and if not, they should all be forced to leave the country.” This is not the America I was taught about in school. This is not the America I want to leave for my children and grandchildren. This is not the America that preaches “liberty and justice for all”.

And as Obama mentioned in his speech at American University last week, we should all remember the words written by Emma Lazarus in describing our Statue of Liberty:

“Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand,” she wrote,

A mighty woman with a torch…
From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome…
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!”…
“Give me your tired, and your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to be free…
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

1 comment:

  1. Spot on, Ashwani. I'm all for states' rights, but when a state oversteps into federal jurisdiction (like immigration) then the fed needs to step in. I applaud President Obama for standing up for our constitution.


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