A Modest Proposal on
Immigration and Denaturalization
30 July 2018
It is perhaps understandable that many citizens have become very concerned with the continued arrival of new immigrants to the United States. There is, they fear, a real chance that in their midst there may lurk murderers, rapists, and drug dealers, among other criminals. More broadly, however, they are uneasy about the prospect that millions of people who may be, as they report, simply fleeing poverty, gang war, everyday violence, and injustice will become an intolerable burden on established citizens who are already hard-pressed to provide for their families.
In this regard it was inevitable, surely, that the debate about dealing with new immigrants would shift to the process of denaturalization of recent immigrants. There are some 20 million naturalized citizens now residing in the United States. A number of federal government agencies, we are told, are charged with ferreting out cases of fraud among those arrivals who have already been granted full citizenship. Cases of fraud involves concealing, on the application for citizenship, everything from war crimes and terrorism to minor criminal offences, phony marriages and false identities. When fraud of this type is proved, citizenship is revoked and the offender is deported.
However, it is easy to imagine that this case-by-case, retrospective review of suspected fraud must represent an administrative nightmare. Each charge must be proved before a judge, and this involves digging up obscure paperwork in foreign countries that itself may be of dubious providence. Yet the suspicions remain: How many naturalized citizens in the recent past might have lied or dissembled in a desperate attempt to stay permanently in this country? But perhaps our fears about being overwhelmed by dangerous elements among the prospective new immigrants have made us blind to a greater threat: What if we are already surrounded by such elements, in vast numbers of those now permanently resident here? What if it is already too late to protect ourselves against this danger?
There is a simple solution available to address these fears. It is based on the recognition that the case-by-case, elaborate administrative review of suspected fraud among the newest naturalized citizens will never be adequate to the task. The solution to this dilemma is both straightforward and elegant: Since all citizens of this country are descendants of people who were once naturalized citizens, then all must be subjected to the process of being examined for denaturalization and deportation to country of origin.
For who among us can prove, to the satisfaction of a judge, that the statements made by our ancestors, upon landing at Plymouth Rock or Ellis Island, were “the whole truth and nothing but the truth”? What crimes great and small, false identities, and phony marriages did they fail to mention? What enormous pile of immigration fraud lies forever concealed among the desperate tales of the “wretched refuse” that has been cast upon these shores since time immemorial? Those facing denaturalization proceedings today must say to the rest: “You were, every one, all immigrants at one time or another. All of you should be sent back to your ultimate country of origin, until all of the paperwork can be sorted out.”
The logic and reasonableness of this position undoubtedly will appear to many to be inescapable. There will surely arise a swelling tide of citizens who will choose to self-deport themselves back to their ancestors’ countries of origin. Only the present descendants of aboriginal peoples will be exempt. But wait! They too were immigrants, starting about 14,000 years ago. Given the age of the universe, what difference does a few thousand years make? They too must choose to go. And every one of the self-deportees will have to take with them their household pets and farm animals, most of which are non-native species.
On a personal note, all four of my grandparents emigrated from Germany to New York, through the port of Hamburg, around the end of the nineteenth century. We should, by all rights, return to the Fatherland until all this is sorted out. There will be a few awkward cases among the tens of millions of returnees. The grandfather of the current president of the United States sought to do the right and proper thing, by returning to his country of origin after making a small fortune in some interesting enterprises in the Pacific Northwest; however, German officials refused to allow him to take up his German citizenship again. This was obviously a simple bureaucratic error that could be rectified with a bit of good will on all sides, and indeed it was.
Once the United States is emptied out, for which the resident wildlife will be grateful, Canada and the whole of Central and South America must follow suit. But when Europe is filled to bursting with these inhabitants of temporary detention centers, will not those detainees cry out: “What right do the rest of you have to your comfortable squatting on occupied land? Whence came the Angles and the Saxons, whence the Goths and Visigoths, the Vandals and the Huns? Not to mention the Han Chinese.”
Out of Africa, and back again.
William Leiss was born in Long Island, New York; he is professor emeritus, School of Policy Studies, Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada, and a Fellow and Past-President of The Royal Society of Canada: Go to www.leiss.ca.