De­cid­ing who should be­come an Amer­i­can re­quires firm cri­te­ria.

De­cid­ing which of the ‘tem­pest-tost’ to take in re­quires firm and sen­si­ble cri­te­ria

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - By Clif­ford D. May Clif­ford D. May is pres­i­dent of the Foun­da­tion for Defense of Democ­ra­cies and a colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Times.

This is a pe­cu­liar mo­ment in his­tory, one in which we have come to ex­pect the un­ex­pected. Even so, I was sur­prised to see this: a re­porter and a White House of­fi­cial de­bat­ing po­etry. I’m re­fer­ring, of course, to the dustup be­tween CNN’s Jim Acosta and ad­min­is­tra­tion ad­viser Stephen Miller over “The New Colossus,” Emma Lazarus’ fa­mous son­net, writ­ten in 1883 and in­scribed on the pedestal of the Statue of Lib­erty 20 years later.

Mr. Acosta took the po­si­tion that the poem es­tab­lished pol­icy: an Amer­i­can com­mit­ment to ad­mit — in per­pe­tu­ity and pre­sum­ably ever in­creas­ing num­bers — “your tired, your poor … the wretched refuse of your teem­ing shore.”

Mr. Miller’s re­but­tal was en­ter­tain­ing and, I’d ar­gue, he got the bet­ter of the ex­change. But when it comes to im­mi­gra­tion and cit­i­zen­ship poli­cies, there’s much more to dis­cuss.

Rea­son­able peo­ple — not a grow­ing de­mo­graphic, I rec­og­nize — will dis­agree over whether the cri­te­ria for ad­mit­tances should be stricter or looser, which im­mi­grants are likely to bring ben­e­fits and which bur­dens, how many are too many and how many not enough.

But on at least a few points, rea­son­able peo­ple should agree. First, non-Amer­i­cans have no right to be­come cit­i­zens of the United States just as Amer­i­cans have no right to be­come cit­i­zens of Ja­pan, Kenya or Saudi Ara­bia. Sec­ond, it’s not fea­si­ble in the 21st cen­tury to take in all the tens of mil­lions of “home­less, tem­pest-tost” who might like to put down roots in Amer­i­can soil.

We can prob­a­bly agree, too, that it’s a bad idea to wel­come ter­ror­ists to our shores. But what anti-an­titer­ror­ists, those who see ter­ror­ism as a le­git­i­mate form of “re­sis­tance” against those they re­gard as op­pres­sors?

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Michael Barone has pointed out that, be­tween 1890 and 1901, “an­ar­chist ter­ror­ists mur­dered the pres­i­dent of France, the em­press of Aus­tria and the pres­i­dent of the United States.” In re­sponse, an­ar­chists were barred from the United States. Start­ing in the 1920s, com­mu­nists also were ex­cluded.

Some peo­ple op­pose such “ide­o­log­i­cal ex­clu­sion.” But is there a case to be made for open­ing Amer­ica’s doors to Nazis, white su­prem­a­cists and skin­heads? If not, then the real ques­tion is not whether to ex­clude but whom and based on ad­her­ence to which ide­olo­gies.

On the flip side, are there truths that would-be Amer­i­cans should hold to be self-ev­i­dent? Chap­ter 7 of the Pol­icy Man­ual of the U.S. Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices says that an “ap­pli­cant for nat­u­ral­iza­tion must show that he or she has been and con­tin­ues to be a per­son at­tached to the prin­ci­ples of the Con­sti­tu­tion of the United States.” Based on the ev­i­dence I’ve seen, this re­quire­ment is not be­ing se­ri­ously en­forced.

Last week in this space, I wrote about Am­mar Shahin, the Egyp­tian-born imam in north­ern Cal­i­for­nia who has pub­licly prayed for Al­lah to “an­ni­hi­late” the Jews “down to the very last one. Do not spare any of them. … Oh Al­lah, make this hap­pen by our hands.” (He later apol­o­gized, say­ing he was “deeply sorry for the pain that I have caused.”)

Other ser­mons he has given demon­strate that he has no at­tach­ment to “the prin­ci­ples of the Con­sti­tu­tion.” Quite the con­trary: In a Nov. 11, 2016 ser­mon, trans­lated by the Mid­dle East Me­dia Re­search In­sti­tute, he warned specif­i­cally against “democ­racy, the con­sti­tu­tion, and all these mat­ters that they fool you with.”

He told his flock to be wary of laws made by “the hands of hu­mans” rather than “re­vealed by God.” He added: “These things, these mat­ters, democ­racy, con­sti­tu­tion, all of these things that peo­ple make to­day, are like the idols that the in­fi­dels used to wor­ship.”

And, ear­lier this year, the Is­lamic Cen­ter of Davis, where he serves as imam, hosted the “honor­able scholar” Sheikh Muham­mad Rateb Al-Nabulsi, who told the con­gre­ga­tion that, un­der Is­lamic law, “ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity car­ries the death penalty.”

Mr. Shahin first came to the United States in 1991. It is un­clear whether he has be­come a nat­u­ral­ized Amer­i­can or, if not, on what ba­sis he makes his home here. Such in­for­ma­tion is not avail­able to the pub­lic. Re­peated calls to the Is­lamic Cen­ter of Davis have gone un­re­turned.

But from what we now know about his be­liefs, surely it’s fair to ask whether he is the sort of per­son we should be invit­ing to join the Amer­i­can fam­ily. Some Amer­i­can Mus­lims think not.

“The com­mu­nity must weed out its own big­ots if it wants fair-minded Jews and Chris­tians to sup­port it against the big­otry of oth­ers,” Farah­naz Is­pa­hani, a for­mer mem­ber of Pak­istan’s Par­lia­ment and fel­low at both the Woodrow Wil­son Cen­ter and the In­sti­tute for Re­li­gious Free­dom, wrote last week in the Huff­in­g­ton Post. Amer­i­can Mus­lims, she added, ought to be de­mand­ing that Imam Shahin be fired.

Sam Har­ris, an athe­ist philoso­pher of the mod­er­ate left, has ar­gued: “You don’t have to be a fas­cist or a racist or even a Trumpian to not want to im­port peo­ple into your so­ci­ety who think car­toon­ists should be killed for draw­ing the Prophet.”

Which leads to this ques­tion: Since we can’t and shouldn’t take in ev­ery­body, why not give pri­or­ity to im­mi­grants who re­ally do, as Lazarus phrased it, “yearn to breathe free,” are strongly “at­tached” to the Con­sti­tu­tion, in­clud­ing the Bill of Rights, and em­brace the ideals ar­tic­u­lated in the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence? Isn’t that the foun­da­tion on which Amer­i­can cit­i­zen­ship — and iden­tity — should be built?

What value or in­ter­est is served by award­ing cit­i­zen­ship to those who preach in­tol­er­ance and in­cite vi­o­lence, want to im­pose their laws on us, and spread their big­otry and ha­tred among us? If Jim Acosta has an­swers to such ques­tions — po­etic or pro­saic — I’m all ears.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY LINAS GARSYS

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.