14th Amendment, Equal by Law, But Law Can’t ChangeThe Heart


July 9, 1868 the United States formally adopted the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (www.ourdocuments.gov). This particular piece of legislation is considered to be the first Civil Rights legislation ever instituted by the United States and was in direct response to the social climate of Reconstruction after the Civil War ended in 1865. Considering all conditions of the naturalization of immigrants according to the Naturalization Act of 1802, the specific changes rendered by the Fourteenth Amendment are:

  • Section 1 declares that all persons born in the United States are citizens. This inclusive statement finally makes citizenship attainable for women and non-whites who are born on U.S. soil after the amendment is adopted. Such citizens enjoy equal liberty and protection. However, naturalization of immigrants is not amended so citizenship through naturalization is still exclusively for free, male, white immigrants.
  • Section 2 establishes the ratio of State Representatives with respect to population, making a point to exclude Native Americans from the population count. Phraseology also indicates that adult males who are considered criminal or involved in rebellion are not considered a part of the voting population.
  • Section 3 denies government office to people who have engaged in insurrection or rebellion or given aid or comfort to the enemies of the United States.
  • Section 4 establishes that lawful debt incurred by the United States shall not be questioned. United States assumes no financial responsibility for any act of insurrection or rebellion against the United States. The United States accepts no financial responsibility for the financial loss created by the emancipation of a slave.
  • Section 5 empowers the United States Congress to enforce through legislation the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment.

What was the social, political and economic climate of the United States leading up to the adoption of this legislation? The United States was in the midst of reconstruction, the Civil War having ended three years prior to the date of the Fourteenth Amendment’s approval. The Emancipation Proclamation and Thirteenth Amendment resulted in thousands of people freed from slave status yet left to wonder what exactly that meant.

In the 1857 case, Dred Scott v. Sandford, the Supreme Court ruled that American descendants of African slaves could not attain U.S. citizenship. Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment definitively overruled that Supreme Court decision. The Southern states vehemently opposed the Fourteenth Amendment and only ratified the amendment in order for their states to continue being represented in Congress. In the December 1, 1866 issue of Harper Weekly, editor George William Curtis responded to the resistance of the Southern States acceptance of the Fourteenth Amendment by posing this question, “After a tremendous struggle to overthrow a Government in which you fail, how can you be humiliated by accepting, as the condition of resuming a share in that Government, that it shall be upon equal terms with others?” The common social perception of the Fourteenth Amendment is that it established equality amongst all United States citizens regardless of race or gender (www.14thamendment.harpweek.com).

For the first time in the history of the United States, Congress had enacted citizenship legislation that was not motivated by deceptive exploitation, power or greed. The Fourteenth Amendment was the first step taken by America to create an equal society. By granting citizenship status to thousands of freed slaves who continued to live in the Southern states, a dramatic shift in power would be created in the House of Representatives where power was population-based. The Southern states would have the advantage. Knowing this, Congress still acted to grant citizenship to these Southern freed slaves and accept the political fall out. Considering the political implications it is then truly indicative that the U.S. Congress approached this legislation from a humanitarian perspective.

In the years immediately following the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, there were several civil rights cases that were brought before the Supremem Court. The Supreme Court held that the amendment did not outlaw racial discrimination by private individuals or organizations, but, rather, was a “state action”. It would then seem that, although the United States can pass laws to create a nation that grants equal status to all citizens regardless of race, there is no law that can compel personal opinion. That would take the work of generations to bring about such social change. And, as the gringa  can see for herself within her own barrio, the work ain’t finished yet.

 

 

Advertisements

1802, Citizenship For Territory


Just four years after the 1798 Naturalization Act, United States legislators were once again scratching away at their parchments. The administration of Thomas Jefferson sought to repeal the Naturalization Act of 1798. He believed that under “the ordinary chances of human life, a denial of citizenship, under a residence of fourteen years, is a denial to a great proportion of those who ask it” (www.northamericanimmigration.org).  It seems Thomas Jefferson came to the same conclusion blogged by the gringa May 29, 2015, in my post titled “1798, Immigrant Until Death”. The naturalization process was designed to deny an immigrant an opportunity at citizenship by establishing residency periods that would fulfill the average immigrant’s natural life span, thus being denied citizenship by death.  In April 14, 1802, as recorded in the Library of Congress, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America got together. It was out with the old, in with the new, the new conditions of citizenship, that is, with the 1802 Naturalization Act:

Section 1 stipulations

  • The immigrant shall declare an oath at a United States state or territorial court that three years prior to admission into the country it was the immigrant’s “bona fide” intention to become a citizen of the United States and that the immigrant renounces any prior allegiance to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereign and must particularly name that prince, potentate, state or sovereign.
  • At the time of citizenship application, the immigrant shall declare an oath before a United States state or territorial court that the immigrant supports the Constitution of the United States and renounces all allegiance to every foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereign of which the immigrant was previously subject to, and must specifically name that prince, potentate, state or sovereign. These proceedings shall be recorded by the clerk of the court.
  • Documentation must be provided to prove residency requirements have been met. The court cannot accept an oath as testamentary proof of meeting residency requirements. The act states “Provided that the oath of the applicant shall in no case be allowed to prove his residence”. Residency requirements are five years within the United States, one year within the particular state or territory of the court where citizenship proceedings are being held. In addition to documentation of residency requirements, the immigrant must also satisfy the court that the immigrant has “behaved as a man of good moral character attached to the principles of the constitution of the United States and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the same”
  • If the immigrant previously carried a hereditary title or was of foreign nobility, the immigrant must expressly renounce such title or order of nobility. Such renunciation shall be recorded in the court. No immigrant who was a native citizen or subject of any country or state at war with the United States at the time of citizenship application shall be admitted to be a citizen of the United States unless the immigrant met all other citizenship requirements and can prove residency began before January, 29, 1795, and had resided in the U.S. for at least two years, with the preceding year being in the state or territory of the court where citizenship application has been made. The immigrant must declare an oath supporting the United States Constitution and entirely renounce allegiance to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereign and specifically name the prince, potentate, state, or sovereign of prior allegiance. If the court is satisfied that during the term of two years the immigrant “behaved as a man of good moral character attached to the constitution of the United States and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the same”, the clerk shall record all and any immigrants who resided within the jurisdiction of the United States between January 29, 1795 and June 18, 1798, may, within two years after the passing of this act, be admitted to become a citizen without compliance to the first condition specified in Section 1.

Section 2 stipulations

  • In addition to Section 1 requirements, all free, white immigrants who arrive in the United States after the passing of this act must register and obtain certificates if they desire citizenship. Free, white immigrants 21 years of age or older must report to the clerk of the nearest court upon arrival into the United States. The report will determine the immigrant’s name, birthplace, age, nation of migration origin and intended place of settlement. The court clerk will record the report and issue to the immigrant a certificate with the seal of office for a fee of 50 cents (about the modern day equivalent of $11, according to http://www.davemanuel.com). If an immigrant is under the age of twenty-one years or is in service, the immigrant’s registration shall be made by the parent, guardian, master, or mistress.

Section 3 stipulates

  • Any immigrant naturalized by the authority of any court of the United States of common law jurisdiction, and such court having a seal and a clerk, that immigrant, having been naturalized, “shall enjoy… the same rights and privileges as if he had been naturalized in a district or circuit court of the United States”.

Section 4 stipulates

  • Children of persons naturalized under any of the laws of the United States or who previously became citizens under the laws of a particular state, and are under the age of twenty-one years when their parents became naturalized, and are currently residing in the United States shall be considered citizens of the United States. Children born outside of the United States are to be considered citizens of the United States provided that the father is a US citizen and has not been convicted of joining the army of Great Britain during the revolutionary war.

Section 5 stipulates:

  • All prior naturalization acts are repealed.

 Once again, the question must be asked. What did all of this mean to an immigrant in 1802? What conditions within the country motivated Congress to invest the time and effort to repeal past legislation and enact new naturalization law?

The most distinct change from the 1798 Naturalization Act requirements was the residency period. Residency requirements were reduced by about two-thirds of the previous time required. Court and document fees were also reduced from an overall total of $4.50 in 1798 to fifty cents in 1802. It was becoming a little easier to become a United States citizen provided you were a white male.  The race and gender requirements remained the same. Excluded from US citizenship were women and non-whites. However, the gringa is hopeful that the pendulum is beginning to swing in favor of the immigrant. Now that residency requirements actually make it possible to survive long enough to become a citizen, racial and gender equality issues could now become an issue to fight for.

Although there are many details, the 1802 Naturalization Act has streamlined, simplified, and economized the process of becoming a United States citizen. For an oath of intention and allegiance, renunciation of title, renunciation of allegiance to nation of origin, five years, and fifty cents, a free, white, male immigrant could become a United States citizen. The new law clarified citizenship status for immigrants who had been naturalized in any U.S. court other than a district or circuit court prior to this act. The new law established citizenship status of children born to fathers that were U.S. citizens regardless of where the child was born, except in cases of children fathered by men convicted of serving the British during the Revolutionary War. The Naturalization Act of 1802 made it possible for many new citizens to fill the ranks of the United States population records much more quickly. It would then seem the United States government saw population growth as a good thing in 1802.

By 1802 the United States had enjoyed nineteen years of recovery from the end of hostilities with Great Britain and establishing independence as a nation. The only military conflict the U.S. was involved in was the First Barbary War that commenced as a naval war in 1801. As reflected by the “Enabling Act of 1802”, the U.S. was preparing to enter into a period of geographical expansion (www.ohiohistorycentral.org). Continental expansion and the need for more settlers, rather than soldiers, was more than likely the motivation for relaxing naturalization standards. According to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 (www.ourdocuments.gov), with regards to a U.S. territory, “whenever any of the said states shall have sixty thousand free inhabitants therein, such state shall be admitted by its delegates into the Congress of the United States, on an equal footing with the original states in all respects whatever”.  This ordinance established the requirement of a population of 60,000 before a territory could achieve state status. So, once again, please understand that the U.S. was not making things easier for the immigrant because of a humanitarian reason. There was a strategic national interest behind the 1802 Naturalization Act. The United States had a need for warm bodies to fill the population requirements in order to expand the nation’s borders. Expansion meant control of more natural resources. More natural resources meant greater national wealth. Once again, the U.S. is motivated by the most common motivators of all time, power and greed. A humanitarian viewpoint on immigration has yet to enter the mind of the typical American legislator. The gringa’s advice to the immigrants in the barrio, find a way to convince Congress there is a significant national benefit to immigration reform. In the United States legislature, money talks. Immigrants will get their immigration reform when the U.S. government realizes it will result in increased wealth and power for the nation.

 

The Birth of America’s Immigration Policies


Trying to find out just what the current laws are regarding United States immigration has led me on a much convoluted path. I decided the only way to truly understand this mess was to go back to the very beginning, 1740. That’s where it all began. As a British colony, the first immigration law, The Naturalization Act of 1740, also known as The Plantation Act of 1740, was officially passed into law by the Acts of Parliament (Commencement) Act 1739 and received Royal Assent June 1, 1740 (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plantation_Act_1740). We have to go back to the beginning because, just as a pearl takes its shape after layer upon layer of nacre has coated the original grain of sand, so our nation’s attitudes toward certain classes and ethnicities of people have been affected by layers of immigration law.  We cannot understand today if we are ignorant of yesterday.

The 1740 law enacted a rather simple, practical and economical process for the colonial immigrant to become a naturalized citizen of England. It granted citizenship to any foreign Protestant colonial immigrant to American colonies if the following condition was met: reside in any colony for seven years without an absence of longer than two months. The immigrant would then be considered a natural-born subject of the British Kingdom. The person was required to take a simple oath of allegiance, although exceptions were made for Quakers and Jews. The oath went something like this:  “I, (insert name), do sincerely promise and swear, that I will be Faithful and bear true Allegiance to his Majesty King George II. So help me God.”  To seal the deal there would be a profession of Christian faith and payment of two shillings, which, today would be a little more than six bucks (www.britishislesdna.com). A new British subject was created for seven years, six bucks, and a promise. And just look where we are today. Good grief.

Somewhere along the way the American colonists became unhappy with England’s immigration policy and in 1776 it became a formal matter of grievance against King George III, the successor of King George II, whose reign oversaw the passage of the Naturalization Act of 1740. This grievance was addressed in the Declaration of Independence: “He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands” (www.HeinOnline.org). And thus the rebellion began.

Fourteen years later on March 26, 1790, the First Congress of the United States enacted the new country’s first naturalization law. The legislation’s criteria determined immigrants had to be “free white persons of good character”. Children born abroad were considered “natural born” United States citizens if the father was a U.S. resident (www.library.uwb.edu). This was the seed from which America’s current tangled mayhem of immigration policy has grown. The classification of free white person would exclude from citizenship any non-European Caucasian. Among the ethnic European Caucasian class, women, indentured servants, and slaves would also not be eligible for citizenship because they were not considered “free”. So, once one of the ol’ gringos decided he wanted to be a citizen he had to establish his good moral character. This was done by residing for two years within the United States and one year in one particular state. Then he could file a Petition for Naturalization with his local courthouse. When the court was convinced his character met the legal standard, he recited an oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and, bing, bang, boom, he was an American citizen (www.sjusd.org). Once again, a simple path to citizenship. And this one didn’t even cost two shillings. It only cost a white guy his time. Now, I don’t know about you, but this gringa finds it puzzling that back in the late 1700’s a group of illegal aliens arrived on North America’s soil, performed hostile acts to forcefully wrest control of the land mass from existing indigenous peoples, then had the audacity to enact laws determining who lived free and equal in America. I mean, the nerve of some people!

The distinct difference between the British Naturalization act of 1740 and the United States Naturalization act of 1790 has to do with gender, social status and ethnicity. The British act allowed for any foreign Protestant to become a citizen with no distinction of gender, ethnicity or social status. Although it specified Protestant faith as a requirement, it also allowed for certain religious exceptions. The United States act, although free of any religious discrimination, instead chose to discriminate against all women, indentured servants, slaves and all races other than European Caucasian. It seems to me that the country the founding fathers of the United States envisioned was one that was owned and managed by the white men of property. All women and non-European Caucasian men were to become the labor class with no rights to property or even the right to vote. As a woman I most certainly do not like that plan. It’s very likely if this gringa had lived in 1790 America I would have run off from the settlement to join the natives. I think they treated their women better.

Where The Heck Is Immigration Reform?


Houston leads all other Texas cities in population with well over two million people sprawling over an area of almost 600 square miles.  According to Huffington Post’s March 5, 2012 article “Houston Surpasses New York And Los Angeles As The ‘Most Diverse In Nation‘” by Sara Gates, Houston enjoys a special ethnic based status among all other cities in the United States. At any time of day over 90 different languages and dialects can be heard chatting away within the city limits. According to 2010 census figures, gringos checked in at 51% of Houston’s population.  Although Houston’s Hispanic population was officially 44%, it was estimated that close to half a million illegal immigrants also live throughout the Houston area. With so many households not registered with the Census, it could easily be said that Hispanics actually enjoy a much larger slice of Houston’s population pie and could easily be the city’s predominant culture. The Greater Houston Partnership Research Department’s October 2014 report “Social, Economic and Demographic Characteristics of Metro Houston” includes a moderate growth scenario which predicts that by 2015, Hispanics will represent the largest share of Houston’s population and, by 2044 Hispanics will outnumber all other ethnic groups combined.  So, it seems that Houston’s ethnic communities continue to grow. With such tremendous growth of the Latin immigrant community, why are their voices not being heard? Where the heck is immigration reform?

I believe two reasons Houston’s Hispanic population is so large is geography and climate. Houston is often the first place an immigrant from Central or South America arrives at when they first cross the border. It’s simply convenient and economical to stay. For many of these immigrants, Houston’s subtropical climate is quite similar to what they left behind and it creates a comforting familiarity. My husband, for example, immigrated from the jungles of Peru. Houston was his first checkpoint in his new land. He did a brief stint in Georgia and Maryland but, after experiencing their winter season, he high-tailed it back to Houston where you can wear flip-flops and tank-tops in December.

Many immigrants come to the United States searching for the opportunity to build a better life. These immigrants also prefer to stay in Houston because it’s a hotbed of opportunity. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Houston consistently led the rest of the country in “total nonfarm employment” job growth from March 2010-March 2015. Many of these jobs are performed, on and off the books, by Houston’s Hispanic population. I believe if almost half a million undocumented people are contributing to Houston’s economic success, these people deserve the opportunity to become legitimate Houstonians. Immigration reform is long overdue.

It seems to this gringa that the task of trying to process the existent undocumented immigrant community is a job way too extensive for our already overburdened judicial system to take on.  That is one reason why I support amnesty.  Another reason is because I do not place all the blame of an undocumented person’s illegal status on the immigrant.  For decades Americans chose to turn a blind eye to immigrants that secretly crossed the border. The people of this country knew they were coming and made non-enforcement our country’s unofficial border policy at the Rio Grande. Suddenly, many in the United States not only want to change this unspoken policy, but they also want to demonize the undocumented workers that arrived here during a time when they were passively welcomed. Our country wanted to enjoy the fruits of low paid labor.  Our citizens wanted their landscapers, live-in nannies, and farm workers.  For decades U.S. citizens were willing to benefit from undocumented worker labor. Now, America, you refuse to play the game you started.  You want to take your ball and go home. The complicated repercussions of such a temper tantrum could very well be economically and socially disastrous.

The United States is just as much at fault for the current undocumented immigrant issue by creating a situation that enabled millions of undocumented workers to easily immigrate and build a new life. The country then needs to accept responsibility and stop crying foul. We should not rip families apart by keeping within our borders those who were born here and send the others back to their country of origin.  We do not need to create a vacuum of loss in our economy by suddenly disappearing profitable businesses and vital service industries that the community is interdependent upon.  We do not need to allow documented immigrants to point and wag their fingers and self-righteously proclaim, “If WE can do it the right way, so can you.” Stop that. It’s not helpful. As you pass judgment on this group of people you  are absolutely clueless of the conditions of their life journey and it does not solve the problem. We do not need to get on our defensive high horses and scream, “But they are taking our jobs!” We need to stop perpetrating this lie because the truth is most gringos and gringas believe they are too good for the job of busboy, housekeeper, landscaper or floor sweeper. The unspoken, politically incorrect truth is that most Caucasians simply refuse to apply for such jobs as tomato picker, fruit sorter, launderer, seamstress, nanny, busboy and gardener. The politically incorrect truth is that America has created a culture of entitlement and a corresponding population that believes those jobs are for the “illegals”.  Not only are immigrants not “stealing” anyone’s jobs, many of these people are true entrepreneurs creating their own jobs as well as jobs for others, hiring staff to work alongside them in their landscape business, housecleaning service or mobile taqueria.

Please be honest with yourself, America. Political correctness solves nothing because, although it may be a feel good/sound good message and doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings, political correctness usually has nothing to do with the truth. It’s like when the esposa asks the esposo, “Does this make me look fat?”  And, yes, it most certainly does make her look fat but he knows better than to say the truth or there will be a rumble in the barrio. So, he diplomatically lies in order to spare her feelings, “No. What, are you crazy? You look great!”  And then she goes out and the whole familia starts gossiping about how Tia is probably pregnant. Look at how much weight she’s gained. See, political correctness is stupid. Without accepting and dealing with the real truth of issues, progress can never be accomplished. So, political correctness junkies, just stop it.

Our country is faced with the job of processing a vast population of undocumented workers. This presents a task so daunting that it would be another decade or two before the court system worked its way down the list to even begin processing immigrants who entered the United States under a new immigration policy today. I say the only reasonable solution is amnesty for those undocumented workers that are here now. Wipe the slate clean. Legalize the ones we have and start anew with a streamlined, simplified, affordable immigration policy that makes it possible for the impoverished immigrant to escape a hellish reality just as easily as a privileged immigrant who has the means to be college educated in America.  Our policy of rejecting the lowly has been proven wrong by the thousands upon thousands who have come here with nothing and have created their own opportunity and built their own version of the American dream. If you don’t believe me and need a strong dose of reality, I invite you to my barrio so you can see for yourself. Mi casa es su casa. The gringa will keep the café hot and the chicha morado cold while I wait for you!