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Every Little Helps

Monday, July 21, 2003

American-born?


Orrin Hatch, Mormon, singer of sappy Jesus-is-my-girlfriend songs, supporter of polygamy, and now anti-American activist?

No, I don't quite agree with the criticism that's been heaped upon Hatch.

First off, and people feel free to set me straight here: as far as I recall, to run for president, you have to have been born a US citizen and be over 35, not a felon, etc. Do you have to be born physically on American soil, or can you have been born while your parents were vacationing in Canada or whatnot? I always thought the requirement was being born a US citizen, something which being born on US soil automatically makes you, but something gained at birth through other means (having American parents) as well. You can be born abroad, to American parents. Even if that's not the case, you could be born in America and then raised entirely overseas, like many people I met in England.

Anyhow, all sorts of people are in a panic and calling Hatch all sorts of things, saying that people who were born abroad and then took positive steps to become American citizens (or whose families moved here when the kids were two years old, or who were adopted at a few months of age by American families) are a huge threat to our country.

Less hysterical people are arguing that people with ties to another country will have divided loyalties, much like the claim made about Jews in general here ("Mr. Lieberman, would you be able to be impartial when it comes to Israel?"). But haven't we come across people, born and raised here, who much prefer other countries? Some even move to them, but keep their American citizenship. Even more common are people who will choose the UN's positions over current or traditional US ones. Many people born Americans but raised abroad will have very divided (or undividedly unAmerican) loyalties; I know, were I to have been elected president upon my return from England, I'd have had very pro-UK policies. Now, I'd pay much more attention to helping India than to helping, say, Togo, mainly because I know nothing about Togo, and I'm quite partial to India and think it needs a lot of fixing!

What I mean to say is: it's a silly distinction. Whether you're born here and raised here or elsewhere, or born elsewhere and tried quite hard to become a citizen, makes little difference in terms of your loyalties and political beliefs. Immigrants from southwest India are more likely to have communist leanings, true, because that's all they grew up around, and similarly with other areas, but people who grew up and were politically involved in another country likely won't have the lifetime left to have been a citizen for twenty years before they run for president here. Plus, even if they run, they still have to get elected. If most people here want a communist, well, that's another question. (One faced by low-birth-rate western Europeans looking at imminent Muslim majorities and strong supporters of instituting Shari'a law, for example.)

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