Saturday, March 25, 2017

'Sir, The 14th Amendment is My Paperwork, and it is in Good Order'

   When they ask for your paperwork, immigrants, ask for theirs. Theirs might have something to say about whether you belong, about whether you can stay. So, ask them to show you what is written on that venerable piece of paper known as the Constitution.
   Help them a little, turning them to Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which says, "No State shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
   "Any person within its jurisdiction." That would include, well, any person living in America, regardless.
   Skip back to what it says just before that. "Nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property." Any person, it says. Any.
  Those who wrote the Fourteenth Amendment did not seem to be concerned with illegalizing people. They did not seem concerned with locking them up or locking them out, or placing restrictions on their coming to America.
   Oh, they did say something about citizenship. "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." Naturalization was the process of stamping you as a citizen once you arrived. It wasn't a process of excluding you; It was a process of including you. So, all those born here or who move here are citizens.
  And, give special attention to the part of the Fourteenth Amendment that says, "All persons . . . who are subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens." A person growing up and living in Sweden isn't subject to the laws of the U.S.  A person in Chile isn't subject to our laws. No, only those living here are subject to our laws. And, the Constitution says that everyone who is subject to American laws is an American citizen.
   Papers matter, some more than others. When the paper is the Constitution of the United States, it matters a lot. It matters more than a lot of other papers, including that paper you may or may not have had back when you walked across the border.
   Maybe, you should just say, "My papers, yes, I've got them right here. My papers, my papers . . . " While you speak, be reaching for the Constitution you've tucked in your pocket. Pull it out, open it, and read the Fourteenth Amendment, explaining it as you go.
   Then, look the officer in the eye, and say, "Sir, those are my papers, and they seem to be in good order."

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