Tribal Justice and Immigration

Illegal immigration is of course a current hot topic.  The nation is in a quandary over the issue, particularly since the passing of the new

Liberty For All? - Wiki Commons

Arizona law which is now on a track that seems certain to end at the Supreme Court.  There is no way for me as a mere blogger to address all the fine detail and legalities, and yet perhaps we can back away a little at this point and, like Google Earth, press ( – ) and get more of an overview of the issue.

The United States is a nation of immigrants.  Wikipedia has an extensive, information-dense article on the subject HERE.    The article contains this factoid that surprised me:

“. . . As of 2006, the United States accepts more LEGAL immigrants as permanent residents than all other countries in the world combined.”

In my opinion a conscientious voter would want to study this article, given its immediacy and import.  Another useful web page is The National Immigration Forum.

There are good reasons to screen immigrants, now more than ever.  We don’t want terrorists, criminals, slothful or unskilled people, or people with significant health
problems.  The latter is a growing concern.  The web site for “FAIR” lists a number of health problems that need to be screened out to protect us.  FAIR appears to be an organization that wishes greater limits on immigration, but I have no reason to dispute their statistics.  Other than the afflictions tapeworm, typhoid and TB mentioned by FAIR, I recently saw on a network news

Anopheles Full Of Blood - Wellcome

program that dengue fever is a growing concern for the U.S. due to the warming climate.  Dengue is a particularly ugly disease and, since it is spread by mosquitoes, the more people who have it, the more will get it.  Get it?  It’s worrisome.

Excepting Native Americans, our ancestors came here from other places over the the last 600 years or so.  As for those Native Americans, most experts believe they migrated here over the frozen sea between Alaska and Siberia in several waves between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago.  Notably, they were here first, not as landowners but as hunter-gatherers.  Bottom line, property rights and laws regarding citizenship date back about 500 years, during which we have generally encouraged immigration in order to foster the economy and fill an expanding nation.

Speaking of nations, a definition of “nation” may be appropriate here.  My 2003 Merriam Webster defines it as:  “1 a (1):  Nationality 5a”.  That is further defined as:  “5a: a people having a common origin, tradition, and language and capable of forming or actually constituting a nation-state”.

The part about language is important because in my opinion that’s what binds us together more than anything else.  If not language, what?  For more on this, see the post, “One Nation Into Babel, With Liberty and Justice For All“.    (For comments on a post, click on “comments” in the fine print at the bottom of the post.)  Hint to the student:  LEGAL immigrants must learn to speak English.

Also pertinent is why we feel as we do about anyone who is different from ourselves, and that of course goes to the heart of the issue.  Personally, I think of collective human behavior as instinctively tribal.  I believe that tribal behavior, including xenophobia, was a survival factor in human evolution because collective efforts would have aided in food-gathering, hunting, and in defense against predators (and that would include other tribes, which just might explain why nations and ethnic groups, i.e., big tribes, so often have trouble getting along with each other).  We had a pretty good discussion of this on my post, “Tribes and Crazy People“.

There is no doubt in my mind that true immigration reform is needed, and that includes a path to citizenship for those already in this country who work hard, speak English, know the basics of our government’s rules, and (other than entering illegally) are not criminals.  After all, I hear in the news every day about natural-born citizens who don’t meet all those criteria and whom I would LOVE to deport!  There is this too:  many of these illegals are the ones who are harvesting our crops, plucking our chickens and making our beds.  And they are glad to do it, unlike most of our natural born.

On the other hand, there are in fact illegal aliens I would like to see us keep.  Please, check out this ABC News story and tell me if the criminal, Diego Sepulveda, is worth keeping.

Rather simply, I have thought of some GENERAL reasons for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.

Reasons to KEEP the good immigrants:

1.  Tradition.  The U.S. has always welcomed immigrants and has prospered by doing so.

2.  Justice.  (This can be complex.  See this LINK.)

3.  Altruism.

4.  People to do the jobs at the bottom of the economic scale.

5.  Workers to grow the economy.  (Static growth is a static economy – Econ 101)

6.  Workers to contribute payroll taxes to support entitlements (SS, Medicare) for burgeoning rolls of the unhealthy elderly.  (addition courtesy of tip from Bruce the Economist.)

Naturally, along with reform we have to reduce the uncontrolled flow of illegals.  The Great Recession is already having a strong effect on that.  Please see this NEW YORKER REFERENCE for stats and an overall balanced article on the subject, (compliments of Bruce the Economist).  This is likely to continue as more states up the pressure on employers who hire illegals and as we make progress on the fence between Mexico and the U.S.

The Issue of Jus Soli

There was an interesting development recently when Senator Lindsey Graham (R., SC) said that he is considering introducing a constitutional amendment that would deny citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants born in the United States.  For news of that, see the LINK here.

This would modify our long-standing policy known to lawyers as “jus soli” (law of the soil) which simply means that if you are born here,

Well, WHO Are YOU???

you are a citizen here.  Interestingly, many other countries have modified jus soil to require that at least one parent be a citizen for the child to become a citizen.  (Notably, the U.K. is one such.)  An article on this is HERE.  This could have the effect of further discouraging illegal immigration, but would have to be done carefully so as not to encourage a rush to beat a deadline.  I think that could be done.

But, I agree with Senators Graham, Kyle and McCain that it is time to have a national debate about modifying our jus soli.  What do you think?

(P.S. – Do not think that a constitutional amendment is too hard to do or would take too long.  The 18th Amendment (Prohibition) only took about 13 months from passage to ratification.)

About Jim Wheeler

U. S. Naval Academy, BS, Engineering, 1959; Naval line officer and submariner, 1959 -1981, Commander, USN; The George Washington U., MSA, Management Eng.; Aerospace Engineer, 1981-1999; Resident Gadfly, 1999 - present. Political affiliation: Democratic.
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9 Responses to Tribal Justice and Immigration

  1. Here is a link on the decline in illegal immigration.

    Another thing to consider is the immigration, who are mostly younger mitigates the issues with who going to pay for entitlements for older folks.


  2. ansonburlingame says:


    Almost simultaneous posts on same topic though with different perspectives. Go to my just posted blog (sorry I get get a link to paste her) “A DIFFERENT VIEW ON IMMIGRATION”.

    You are addressing “buckets” and I address the “faucet”.



  3. Duane Graham says:


    A very thoughtful piece on the issue. I found much to agree with, at least until the end.

    I don’t have a problem with debating the implications of the Citizenship Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment, or any clause in any Amendment for that matter. You might guess that I think it’s a dumb idea to fiddle with the clause or the meaning of the clause, but in principle anything subject to such scrutiny would be a candidate for debate and discussion.

    But I do, though, have a problem with debating it in the climate created by conservative demagogues just now. The issue divides even Republicans—heck, I even heard Pat Robertson come out against the idea yesterday—and it is designed not to shed light but to juice up Tea Partiers and the like into voting for Republicans in November. Contrary to your suggestion, on this issue it would be next to impossible to pass an amendment revising the Fourteenth. As I said, there isn’t even widespread support for it in the party whose leaders are agitating for it.

    I do agree, however, with the spirit of the “solution” you have laid out. Such a solution is one in which thoughtful members of both parties should be able to agree on, and which seems very close to the one Bush, to his credit, pushed for a few years ago.

    Sadly, we’re far beyond the possibility of it passing now.

    And, by the way, here is a link to Anson’s, “A Different View On Immigration.” Someday, I hope to be able to teach him how to embed links, but as you may have noticed from our protracted debates, he is a slow learner.



    • Jim Wheeler says:


      Wow. I got you, Anson and Pat Robertson all to disagree with me on something. Now that my work here is done, guess I’ll retire. 😀

      In case you missed it, I did reply to Anson.

      Hope you continue to post during your travel. I would miss your lurk.



  4. ansonburlingame says:

    Hell Duane,

    I don’t even know how to spell it. Does on “embed” a link or “imbed” or “immbed” it?



  5. ansonburlingame says:

    To all,

    Oh yes, I forgot. I am not in agreement with revising the 14th Amendment. We have bigger fish to fry.



  6. Jim Wheeler says:


    Is there such a thing as “attention span” for national debates? I suppose there is. And yet, amidst all the silliness that gets booted about in the Congress don’t you think there might be room for a civil discussion that would affect the nation in the long term? Modifying the 14th certainly comes under that heading.

    Ken Midkiff’s op-ed in today’s Globe makes some good points about burgeoning third-world population growth. I think that will only INCREASE the pressures on the U.S. to admit more and more immigrants. Seems to me that we need long-term plans as well as short ones. Maybe you think our congress creatures can’t handle it. Hope you’re wrong.



  7. ansonburlingame says:


    I am all for civil discussions on just about anything, even the ones that I know very little about. I might learn something.

    But tinkering with the 14th Amendment will never stay very civil for very long.

    Richard LaNear has argued that the entire amendment should be repealed. His point is that social “justice” rendered by courts, not legislatures, has long been based on 14th amendment arguments.

    Duane and others use “equal protection” arguments to justify damn near anything, whether we can pay for it or not.

    If we start “tinkering” with just the citizenship element of the 14th amendment we will soon be hearing arguments like repeal everthing that does not meet Art.One, Sec. eight constitutional standards of “permission”.

    Yes, there is a very large elephant in our living room and we must “eat it” but one bite at a time in my view. I pick my bites, you pick yours. For now I will focus on debt and deficit bites, not citizenship or world population concerns.

    When I turn, eventually, to those arguments I will reconsider the use of nuclear weapons for starters!! Warmonger that I am.



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