Once a society loses its distinctions, it loses its direction. How did we Americans miss the “sleight of words” that has muddled the discussion about citizenship? There are “citizens,” and then there is everyone else; the appropriate legal label is “alien.” “Alien” means you are not a citizen; nothing more. If you need more details, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alien_(law)
Every sovereign nation on this planet has the distinction “citizen.” If you were born in America, as a child of citizens, you are clearly, and plainly a citizen. The laws lay out the standards for being or becoming a citizen.
The control of borders and the management of immigration are important in all countries. Why? Why not let everyone choose any country they like? I really do not know. I do know that every country in the world has strict laws about citizenship.
U.S. citizenship is a miracle, and mostly an accident of birth. I have a common immigrant heritage for an American. My father’s family lived in western Pennsylvania. They were mostly German and the rest Scotch Irish. My mother’s family was Scotch-Irish and English. (I do not know anyone who does not suspect or even proclaim to be part Amerindian.)
In most countries, being born there does not matter; unless your parents are citizens, you remain an alien. The United States is the only developed country in the world – yes, the only one that grants citizenship to anyone born under American jurisdiction.
Being a U.S. citizen bestows benefits on us as individuals, as a society, and as a culture; those benefits are immense, and amazing. I feel like I won the lottery every day I wake up, realizing that, I am an American, living now; we have the astounding good fortune to live better than any aristocrat from any earlier era. That is a topic for another time.
Would anyone be surprised to learn that American politicians are very quick to seize on any opportunity to acquire and attract votes? The rhetorical magic of making the word “alien,” as used in our laws, “politically incorrect,” is no mistake. By collapsing the terms used for legal immigrants, with language describing illegal aliens, they found a way to confuse us. By doing so, they mobilized a new constituency, sympathetic to those aliens who have no legal right to be here.
Ignoring the law is one thing; changing the law is another; but throwing the book of law on the ground, and stomping on it with a cheer and a shout is a disgrace. Just because we let things get so far out of hand, does not mean we do nothing. It means we get to work, righting our ship of state, and refitting for the future. Our own elected representatives have made martyrs out of scofflaws, and villains out of honest citizens who call for enforcement of our laws regarding aliens.