Blowin’ in the Wind: Promises of Citizenship Not Kept

Paleontologists continue to debate the origin of the first Americans. No one debates that many communities of Native Americans existed on the North American continent and within the boundaries of what is now the United States. Yet there are some among us who advocate for a white homeland as a means to preserve Caucasian culture and identity from the ever-growing immigrant population in our national community.

The Census Bureau recently reported that the share of foreign-born in the 50 states is the highest since 1910, a peak in immigration into our country. Perhaps with the exception of African-Americans who were kidnapped into this nation, the remainder of us are progeny of immigrants. By 1918, the population was over 84% non-British and categorized in hyphenated ethnic groups as Italian-American, German-American, Irish-American, and other varieties from Slavic nations. Remnants and traces of these heritages are celebrated today with St. Patrick’s Day parades, Oktoberfests, and Columbus Day, among others.

While proponents of establishing a white homeland continue to espouse the concept, virtually none offer answers to questions such as: where will it be situated?; who determines the whiteness of those admitted? Jared Taylor, the leader of American Renaissance, a northern Virginia-based advocacy organization, stated in a 2013 conference: “We want a homeland where we are a majority. We almost had one in the United States of America.” Another speaker at the conference, Richard Spencer, head of the recently demised National Policy Institute, also Virginia based, offered “peaceful ethnic cleansing” as a process to generate white numerical superiority. It may be inferred that white homeland translates into a jurisdiction that has a super majority of whites in control.

Patricians like Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge (R–MA, d. 1924), whose mother was descended from English immigrants, wanted US citizenship restricted to the original race stocks of the 13 colonies and vigorously championed literacy tests for immigrants []. Despite such nationalist resistance, nearly a quarter of US Army draftees in 1918 were foreign-born, hyphenated Americans, according to a recently published history of WWI [Geoffrey Wawro, Sons of Freedom: The Forgotten American Soldiers Who Defeated Germany in World War I] . According to allied military leaders, the American “doughboys” saved the bacon of the French and English. German military commanders and soldiers referred to the doughboys as “half-Americans.”

Another patrician of the era, however, Teddy Roosevelt, is quoted: “The military tent will rank next to the public school among the great agents of democratization.” In these contexts and against such backdrops, the views of nationalists—whether white or otherwise—defy the American experience with immigration and the reality of it. No mention in the advocacy of white homeland proponents is made of a homeland for Native Americans who, of any ethnic group, have title and possessory interests more substantive than the immigrant progeny who constitute those advocates.

But the story does not end here. In 2008, the US Defense Department created a program known as Mavni—Military Accession Vital to National Interests—which actively recruited immigrants with needed skills or specialties [language, science, medicine] in return for a promise of a fast track to citizenship. Thousands of immigrant recruits signed on only to discover that, in particular, the Army was pursuing enhanced security checks that disqualified them, causing DOD to terminate the program in 2016. Among disqualifiers were telephone calls to family back home and family members back home in government jobs as teachers. In one case, a foreign tie to a parent who owned a car wash in Russia was deemed a security risk.

It’s often said that the United States is a nation of contradictions and contrasts. Clearly, even as immigrants joined the military and sacrificed their lives for the nation, some continued to assert that only “original stock” without hyphenated names qualify as American and entitled to reside in any of the 50 states.

Xenophobia is not classified as an infectious disease but it certainly qualifies as a pandemic spread across all roads an immigrant must walk before we call him a citizen.

Categories: Issues

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