Sunday, August 31, 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

     
    Davis audience hears from civil-rights hero

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Legislators wrap up with water, ethics, guns bills

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Bob Dunning: This new kid might have a future

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

    Five U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State fighters

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    EU threatens Russia with more sanctions

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Rotary clubs offer Davis High students some life lessons

    By Evan Arnold-Gordon | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Robbery, pursuit in Central Davis lead to one arrest

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A3

    Bauer garden marks one year

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Dinner will raise funds to help farmers in Burkina Faso

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Walkers welcome to join Sierra Club outings

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Beamer Park featured at Stroll Through History

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Yolo Federal to hold photo contest

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Katehi will speak at Chamber’s community luncheon

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Bean Feed supports for Yolo Democrats’ activities

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    Tuleyome Tales: Be safe on wilderness trails

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

     
    Small wineries suffer big losses in quake

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A6 | Gallery

    Grande site has been a convoluted saga

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A7

     
    Say goodbye to summer with a ‘Final Blast’ at Explorit

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    Bay Bridge project’s rainy-day money is nearly gone

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A15 | Gallery

    .

    Forum

    Already made herself at home

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Ad-free email? You can still find it at Davis Community Network

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

    Keep our green waste piles

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    How to make a good living

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Nate Beeler cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

     
    Changing local election dates benefits Democrats

    By Tom Elias | From Page: A10

    City panel working to tighten scrutiny of taxpayer dollars

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

     
    Try round-robin storytelling at crafts fair

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

    Speak out

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    Health problems mean he’s checked out

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A14

    Marriage doesn’t mean we agree on everything

    By Marion Franck | From Page: A14

     
    This epidemic should scare us

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A14

    .

    Sports

    New coach, new tougher league for DHS football

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Coach likes what she sees from Devil field hockey squad

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    UCD notebook: Coaches positive about FCS schools ‘playing up’

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Devils open with an impressive volleyball victory

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Stanford scores early, often in opener versus UCD

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Sports briefs: Aggie harriers secure season-opening sweep

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Baseball roundup: Cats win late to pull even with Aces

    By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B8

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    .

    Business

    Comings and Goings: Is fro-yo craze melting?

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A13 | Gallery

     
    Sutter Davis Hospital honored again as a ‘best place to work’

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13

    Community pools its purchasing power to reduce the cost of solar

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20

     
    Engage3 attracts investment for shopping app

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A20

    California growers can use MBI’s new bioinsecticide

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20

     
    Sudwerk, Davis Food Co-op join for ‘co-hop-eration’ brew

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20 | Gallery

    .

    Obituaries

    Wanda P. Daley

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Sunday, August 31, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B8