Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Word About Citizenship & Immigration

A word to Evangelicals: when you stand before Jesus on Judgment Day do you really think the color of your passport is going to make any difference, good or bad, as He determines your place for all of Eternity?

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It’s an election year, time for all Americans to reflect on politics and party affiliations. I’ve decided that I’m a socialist. Broadly speaking, this means that one of the responsibilities of good government is the well-being of the persons living within its borders, not just its citizens. Citizenship is a piece of paper like a marriage license. Having one makes navigating federal and state bureaucracies less difficult. In the grand context of personhood it is a piece of trivia, not unlike white skin, red hair, freckles, or kinky hair. Possession of that piece of paper means there are some bureaucratic procedures that can be invoked in pursuit of employment and housing and others that are preemptively foreclosed such as deportation and imprisonment. In this country for most citizens citizenship is an accident of birth. It is not a result of virtuous action and it is not earned. Naturalization is an exception and in principle revocable. The triviality of possessing a piece of this paper does not imply anything about a person’s character. Holding to the belief that it does imply something significant ironically does very much have unfortunate implications about one’s character.

Because citizenship confers so many bureaucratic benefits at essentially no cost, it is an easy rallying point around which to organize identity (read exclude foreigners). Unfortunately, because citizenship is nothing more than a flurry of paperwork, it is also without broader content or context. Being a citizen has no bearing on one’s worth or character as a human being. The concept itself contains no ethical or moral impediments to being hateful, spite-filled, failed human beings. Red tape is not a rope by which to hoist oneself to a higher ethical and moral plane of existence.

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