You shouldn’t be a citizen

…and neither should I.

Will Wilkinson has an enlightening article up about immigration and birthright citizenship:

We’ll pause for the bien-pensants in the audience to finish calling me a xenophobic racist hick donkeyfucker (or whatever barnyard animal they choose).  Done?  Good.  Let’s reëngage our thinking brains and move on, shall we?

Currently, anyone born within U.S. boundaries counts as a U.S. citizen, and it doesn’t matter a bit how mom got in. The proposal to end “birthright citizenship” for the children of unauthorized immigrants springs from less than generous motives, and almost surely runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution. But ending it altogether is a better idea than you might think. (And if you already think it’s a good idea, it’s good for reasons you might find surprising.) For one, it would likely achieve the opposite of its intended result by making America more, rather than less, welcoming to newcomers.

(Emphasis added.)

Let’s quit talking about Arizona for a moment and start talking about Alberta.  I was born in Edmonton, which automagically made me a Canadian citizen and, to some degree or other, a subject to Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II.

I did not sign up for any of this “subject” bullshit.  I think the Queen has decent taste in hats — for someone who wears hats for fashion rather than function — but otherwise I really don’t care whether she lives or dies except as the geopolitics thereof affect my personal life.  I am (in the limit) a republican, and resent the notion that I pay taxes towards an organization that purports to support that particular octogenarian, but on the other hand it’d cost far more to divest Canada of the monarchy than does the status quo so I’m basically stuck in the land of I-don’t-give-a-shit.  It’s nice here — cool summers, warm winters; much like Vancouver without the goddamn hippies.

The point of all this rambling is that I’m a citizen of Canada by dumb fucking luck of birth.  When I visit the ‘States, I cheerfully — and, more to the point, productively and mutually beneficially — interact with other people very much like myself (except that they can buy beer at grocery stores for half the price).  Canadian nationalists notwithstanding, venturing south of the 49th doesn’t take me into a twisted fantasy of a John Wayne movie come to life; and American nationalists notwithstanding, venturing back north of the border doesn’t take me into a stilted parody of an Aldous Huxley novel narrated by Michael Moore.  As Wilkinson writes:

Well-ordered societies are extended networks of peaceful and productive cooperation, and those networks don’t suddenly stop at political borderlines drawn by conquest and colonization. Americans and Mexicans are deeply intertwined by blood, soil, travel, toil and trade. After all, Arizona was Mexico once upon a time, until the U.S. seized Northwest Mexico and pushed the border south. Efforts to arbitrarily segregate people tied by history, culture, and mutual economic interest are bound to fail.

So.  I have a pair of friends from Germany — your standard well-educated and successful couple with a bright future in front of them and enough potential to wither your eyebrows.  They’ve spent a year and a half or so applying for and eventually earning permanent residence in Canada, and as far as I can tell they want to spend the rest of their lives engaging in mutually advantageous free exchange in the Greater Vancouver area.  Good for them!

But no-one bothered to vet my educational or financial credentials before granting me even more privileges than they so arduously earned.  I gained my citizenship — not just as a Canadian, but as a citizen of the Commonwealth — by virtue of squeezing wetly out of a warm and quiet womb into a loud, bright, and chilly world that just happened to be the west wing of the University of Alberta hospital.  And I did that before I could breathe reliably on my own, let alone before I could demonstrate competitive academic credentials.

Given that damn near everyone who reads this post is, if they go back far enough, the offspring of immigrants — where do we get off claiming citizenship anywhere by sheer boneheaded luck of birthplace?  I can damn well earn my Canadian — and my American — citizenship by any existential criteria you care to name, and every immigrant (including our eventual ancestors) who’s earned citizenship the hard way should be offended that people like us luck into it by happy chance of where we were sprogged.


1 Response to “You shouldn’t be a citizen”

  1. 1 Laurence Eades
    July 4, 2010 at 11:02

    You say that no one vetted your educational or financial credentials before granting you all the privileges of citizenship. You may not have been vetted but you had rights at birth. Your ancestors earned those rights for you. Someone back there went through the process of becoming a citizen, even if it was coming to Canada before the immigration laws were in effect. Therefore their progeny were born as citizens. The process does not start over with each generation.


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