Tuesday, September 30, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

So what’s the point of citizenship?

TomEliasW

By
From page A12 | September 13, 2013 |

As the lines begin to blur between American citizens living in California and immigrants who are here legally, it’s fair to begin asking what’s the difference? What rights and privileges should be reserved strictly for citizens?

These questions are highlighted by two bills that swept easily through the California Legislature, one already signed without much fanfare by Gov. Jerry Brown, the other awaiting his signature at this writing.

Essentially, they take some functions previously reserved entirely for citizens and open them up to legal residents, green card holders.

These developments really began almost 150 years ago, when the U.S. Supreme Court determined that the Constitution’s 14th Amendment applied to foreign residents of this country and not only to citizens. From then on, immigrants were entitled to equal protection under all laws. They already could own property, and right up to this day, they can hold virtually any job if they possess documents showing their presence here is legal.

So what’s left as the exclusive realm of citizens? Voting and its offshoots, for one thing. One of those offshoots is jury duty, where voting rolls are usually used when state and federal courts summon individuals to serve. Another is working at the polls, where individuals sign up with county officials to verify that voters only cast one ballot and to assist anyone who can’t understand how to use the state’s seemingly ever-changing ballots, which in the past two decades have evolved from punching chads out of cards through electronic machines to the Ink-a-Vote system used in most counties today.

But the new law and its possible companion put big dents into these former reserves for citizens.

The one already signed for the first time explicitly allows legal immigrants who have not been naturalized to serve as poll workers, instructing voters on how to understand their ballots. The law allows election officials to appoint up to five people who are not U.S. citizens to work at each precinct. That’s more workers than some precincts now have.

“There are nearly 3 million (California) citizens who are fully eligible to vote and not English-proficient,” the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta of Alameda, told a reporter. “We have a shortage of multilingual poll workers. There has to be language access at the polls.”

But all naturalized citizens have passed a test administered in English. If they could do that, and then managed to register as voters, why shouldn’t they understand their ballots?

The potential second new law allows non-citizen legal residents to serve on juries. This, of course, flies completely in the face of the longtime tradition (not a constitutional requirement, though) that every American accused of a crime is entitled to an impartial jury composed of his or her peers. That has usually been interpreted to mean jury pools should contain a proportional mix of the populace of the area, considering race, gender and national origin.

But should anyone be tried by individuals who have never passed a test of their knowledge of American history, government and traditions? This may not be an absolute legal requirement, but how many citizens would want non-citizens to judge their guilt or innocence?

Then there’s the question of how non-citizens might be called since they’re not listed in the voting rolls where jury summons originate.

All these difficulties, of course, merely beg the central question raised by the new measures, which is that if duties and privileges long accorded only to citizens are now also assigned or given to non-citizens, what’s the point of citizenship?

American citizenship, of course, has long been a cherished goal of immigrants, who often attain it only after hard work and significant costs. If fewer activities are now limited to citizens only, what happens to the incentive toward citizenship?

Blur the distinctions between citizens and those who are not and there’s not much left to move people toward citizenship — perhaps just the reality that only citizenship would guarantee anyone the right to stay in this country if political winds ever shift radically and result in a mass expulsion of non-citizens.

— Reach syndicated columnist Tom Elias at tdelias@aol.com

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Man on a mission: Rob White seeks to transform Davis

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Poppenga outlines ambitious agenda

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Cool Davis Festival is très chill

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Sanity phase begins in Daniel Marsh trial

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

    Council looks at granny-flat revision

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

     
    Find the perfect club or organization to join

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: C2 | Gallery

    Forum examines Props. 1 and 2 on November ballot

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Try out basic yoga on Thursday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    DCC welcomes students with free lunch

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Gibson House hosts plant sale and garden event

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Register to vote by Oct. 20

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Assembly candidates will be at Woodland forum

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Pets of the week

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    California approves landmark ‘yes means yes’ law

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

    TSA bomb training may be noisy

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Number of wheels: How many bicycles do you have in your household?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: C5 | Gallery

    Emerson gives away old textbooks

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    Downtown history tour planned in October

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Fraud Awareness Fair set Oct. 15 in West Sac

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    UCD, University College Dublin will cooperate on food, health

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Accessibility technology on exhibit at fair

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Covell Gardens breakfast benefits Komen Foundation

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Put your hoes down and celebrate the harvest

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    Panelists discuss raising children with special needs

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    DCC hosts fair-trade gift sale on Oct. 11

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Woodland PD seeks volunteers for ViP program

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

     
    DMTC makes musical theater accessible to everyone

    By Bev Sykes | From Page: C9 | Gallery

    Snapshot: A night out with the neighbors

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: C10

     
    Take home a wreath from Davis Flower Arrangers’ meeting

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

    Davis school names reflect interesting history

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: C12

     
    Snapshot: Plenty of places to park it

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: C14

    Snapshot: Dive into Davis fun

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: C15

     
    Snapshot: Kick garbage to the curb

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: C16

    Snapshot: Sounds like a party

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: C17

     
    .

    Forum

    He seems happy at home

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    It takes two to lambada

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

    Archer has the right stuff

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

    Get on your bikes to meet Davis’ greenhouse gas goals

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

     
    Marsh case shows need for ‘Maupin’s Law’

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    The great bedtime conspiracy

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    They’re best-prepared to lead

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Vibrant and hard-working

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    .

    Sports

    Davis golfers get teaching moments in forfeit win

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    ‘Playoff game’ or missed chance? Either way the Aggies move on

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Devils move atop league standings with win

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Only 15 months out of UCD, Runas off to LPGA Tour

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Two Junior Blue Devil squads emerge victorious

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    Woodland artist hosts event at her new studio

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    I-House film series continues with ‘Monsieur Lazhar’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    ‘Art Farm’ exhibition will open in Woodland

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    Pleasant Valley Boys cool down Picnic in the Park

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    Acclaimed guitarist Peppino D’Agostino to play The Palms

    By Landon Christensen | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    Michael Allen Hanks Baxter

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Anne Elizabeth Elbrecht

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Tuesday, September 30, 2014 (set 1)

    By Creator | From Page: B5

     
    Comics: Tuesday, September 30, 2014 (set 2)

    By Creator | From Page: B7