Birthright…

For most of the history of the republic there have been three main pathways to citizenship. You could be born to parents who were American citizens (citizenship by blood), or born physically inside the territorial boundaries of the United States (citizenship by soil), or you could go through the process of naturalization by renouncing your allegiance to a foreign country and swearing allegiance to the United States. That seems simple enough, right?

Except, of course, nothing is ever that simple. Maybe it was once, but from our seat here in the 21st century, when every aspect of government has been bureaucratized and politics has been almost weaponized, it’s not as simple as it seems. Or perhaps it’s not as simple as it even should be.

The complexity arrives in the form of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which says, in part, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States…”

At first glance, it’s straightforward enough. If you’re born or naturalized in the United States, you are a citizen. Except maybe not. The argument here rests on what the phrase “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” means. Is the physical act of being withing the boarders of the United States sufficient to meet the threshold of being subject to the jurisdiction? Does it apply only to those who find themselves lawfully within the jurisdiction (green card holders, for example)? If you are in the country illegally does that in itself create a situation where you have placed yourself, by definition, in a position of being not subject to the jurisdiction by virtue of not abiding by the laws and statutes governing immigration.

Among the many things I’m not is a constitutional scholar, but I am an avid student of history. The president, it’s reported, intends to test the limits of the 14th Amendment with an Executive Order. Since the court has been silent on this particular constitutional detail for the last 120 years, the administration seems to feel the time is ripe for a test case. Sure, it will cause both sides of the political spectrum to lose their minds even more than usual, but the discussion of constitutional merits by people who can manage to keep their heads will be fascinating.

For years studying history and politics all I heard was “how could you do that” or “oh, it’s so boring.” It’s 2018 and if you’re bored by politics do you even have a pulse?

Rolling my eyes at emotional arguments since 1978…

Here’s the thing: I’m not an overtly emotional guy. I’ve been known to be sentimental at times, but I’m not going to be the one who cries with you over pretty much anything. If you’re trying to convince me of the right-ness of your argument, coming at me with an sales pitch full of emotional tugs upon my heart is 100% the wrong way to win me over to your cause.

Like Captain Renault with Rick’s gun pointed at his chest in the dramatic final scene of Casablanca, I’ll take this opportunity to remind you “that is my least vulnerable spot.” It’s not so much that I don’t have a heart, I simply try to minimize its use as the basis for sound decision making. Long life experience tells me doing so doesn’t generally end well. I’ve had significantly more success by letting my head take the lead in making the heard decisions.

Since so many of my countrymen seem determined to be lead about by the heartstrings, though, I’ve taken the liberty of noggining through a modest proposal that would at first blush defuse both the border security hawks and those shrieking “won’t somebody please think of the children.”

What I’ve come up with, in broad strokes, is that Homeland Security should lease space on the Mexican side of the southern border in which to conduct investigations and process those seeking entry into the United States. Those seeking lawful entry wouldn’t risk being detained or separated from family members as they hadn’t crossed into the United States or broken any federal law. Their location in Mexico relieves the US Government from the need for housing, feeding, and providing medical care on site – although we could always throw some money at Mexico to help offset their increased costs. As those seeking entry are vetted and processed, they could be admitted through the designated port of entry or denied entry for cause – all nice an neat without the troubles associated with letting them first set foot on US soil and then starting the process.

This system could be put in effect at every designated port of entry from the Pacific straight across to the Gulf of Mexico. Effectively, the carrot is that families can stay together while their case is heard and disposition made. The stick, because there always has to be a stick, is that anyone found crossing illegally and opting not to avail themselves of the designated processes, would be ejected forthwith from the United States to their country of origin or the nearest country that will grant them asylum and be barred from seeking further admittance to the United States.

Sure, it’s just a quick thought exercise on what right might look like, but that feels more productive than sitting around wringing my hands, gnashing my teeth, and crying bitter, bitter tears.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Mostly they’ve annoyed me in their misguided majority opinion that the most popular style of rifle currently purchased in the United States for sport shooting and home defense is, in their opinion, “most useful in military service.” That would be a fine point of contention, I suppose, if anyone, anywhere actually employed the AR-15 in actual military service… which in my mind is a pretty good indication that military service is, in fact, not where it is most useful.

2. Sympathy for heroin users. My ancestral homeland in far western Maryland and my current home at the norther edge of the Eastern Shore have a lot in common. Both have a small urban center largely surrounded by very small towns and lots of rural land. The other thing they have in common is heroin. Where there’s heroin, from our big cities to our small towns there are apologists for people who use it. They’re sick. They have disease. It’s society’s fault.It’s no different than you and your high blood pressure from the red meat and carbs. Except it’s completely different, of course. Even allowing that addiction is a disease, there are pretty substantial differences. Newspapers aren’t filled with reports of violent crime and property theft because folks with high blood pressure because they couldn’t scrape up the funds for a dose of their medication. I might take a stroke and die, but I’m not apt to sell off the neighbor’s family silver or hold up the nearest liquor store in the process. Our friends the heroin users, though, they’re up to all manner of debauchery to “get their medicine.” You want to kill yourself, have at it. You want to whore yourself out to get a quick score, help yourself. When the bodies that start falling belong to other people or you start thieving, well, my level of sympathy for your plight falls to damned near zero.

3. Mexico. Apparently the Mexican government is upset that we’re going to return to them the unlawful immigrants who they allowed to cross through their country. “But they’re not Mexican nationals,” the foreign minister cries. I suppose that’s one of those things they might should have thought of before letting them cross the entire length of Mexico with a wink and a promise that they were just passing through. Actions, like elections, have consequences.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Fuzzy thinking. I whore my brain out an hour at a a time. Clear thinking and the ability to assimilate large amounts of information into a coherent structure are sort of the baseline level expectation. I think one of the biggest reasons I’ll never be a “drug person” is how much harder it is to take on and process information even when just under the influence of fairly innocuous over the counter medications. Being stoned is fun an all, but I’ll be happy to trade it away for not having to will every single synapse to fire individually in order to get through a complete thought.

2. Taking ten minutes to tell a two minute story. If you have something to say, or if you think you have something to say, go ahead and get to the damned point. It’s bad enough that you’re calling me on the telephone, but when you don’t keep it to an absolute minimum amount of time required I’ve already tuned you out around the two minute mark.

3. A Day Without Immigrants. I don’t know anyone who is downplaying the roll immigrants had and continue to have on this country. I don’t know anyone who is arguing in favor of slamming shut the doors to American citizenship forever. What I do know, though, is the Day Without Immigrants protest refuses to make a differentiation between legal immigration and those who have arrived and/or stay in this country illegally. You can flail your arms and shout until you’re purple in the face and you will simply never convince me that I have a moral responsibility to provide for the care and feeding of those here outside the law beyond what is necessary to adjudicate their case and return them forthwith to their country of origin (or next convenient parallel dimension). So you can close all the big city restaurants you want for as long as you want, but I’m going to continue to insist that 1) legal immigration is a net positive overall and 2) illegal immigration should be stopped.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. You’re a racist. Can someone explain to me, perhaps using small and easy to understand words, why I’m a racist because I believe it’s a responsibility of the federal government to have functioning boarders for my country. My travels have carried me to England, France, Germany, Italy, and Mexico and I entered those countries using their established processes and in accordance with their laws. It doesn’t feel like much of a stretch to expect the same of people who want to come to the United States.

2. Oh my God the traffic! In the absence of anything even remotely newsworthy to cover, news outlets across America have spent a fair amount of time over the last 36 hours commenting on the high volume of Thanksgiving holiday traffic on the roads. The fact that large numbers of Americans take to the roads as part of their holiday tradition probably hasn’t been news since sometime immediately after World War II. Hyping it as “the worst traffic we’ve seen since… last Thanksgiving,” is just lame and not worth the time it took to script the story. Maybe we could use the free air time and column inches to report on something going on somewhere else in the world. I mean you do know that other places aren’t stuffing their faces with turkey and pie today, right?

3. Selective memory. My liberal friends are howling because of the conservatives President-elect Trump is appointing to fill his Cabinet and White House staff positions. In a grand fit of selective memory, they seem to have forgotten the howl that went up when President Obama selected his cabinet and counselors and surrounded himself with leading lights from the left. Sorry folks, that’s what happens when the party running the Executive Branch changes. It means the heroes of the opposition party have to go away for at least four years. Expecting a liberal president to appoint a deep bench of conservative advisors is stupid… and so is expecting a conservative president to surround himself with liberal lions.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The Pope. The leader of an organization that has carved out a nation-state enclave for itself in the center of Rome, extracts immense financial tribute from every nation on earth, and defends itself behind… wait for it… walls, has implied that building a wall between the US and Mexico wouldn’t be the act of a Christian. Now the last time I was in Rome, in order to get into St. Peter’s Square I had to pass through metal detectors under the watchful eyes of armed guards. To get into St. Peter’s itself there was another line, admission tickets, and established entry procedures. It was the same at the Vatican museum. Now unless Francis has thrown open all the doors and is letting people wander the halls of Vatican City at will, I’d respectfully suggest he sit down, shut up, and let the Americans worry about how best to defend our own country’s borders. If expecting people to line up and follow the rules is good enough to enter the Vatican, surely the Holy Father shouldn’t object to other nations expecting those who wish entry to line up and follow the rules of that location too.

2. Term Limits. In the last week I’ve seen articles calling for term limits everywhere. Term limits for the Congress. Term limits for the Court. Term limits for state legislatures. The thing is, though, we have term limits baked right into the system. The Constitution provides term limits at the federal level in the form of elections. Every two years we have the option to throw out every single member of the House of Representatives and 1/3 of the United States Senate. Every fourth year we have the option to turn out the president. We the people make the consistent choice to throw almost none of them out and reelect the incumbents we claim to despise. So instead of using our votes, we clamber for yet another law to allow us to do something that’s already well within the scope of our power as citizens. We have term limits already, but refuse to use them as described in America’s damned owner’s manual.

3. Putting Words in My Mouth. Here’s some advice: Don’t do it. I’m wordy enough as it is and I’m more than happy to provide commentary on whatever someone might want to hear. As demonstrated by this nearly ten year long adventure in blogging, letting people know what’s on my mind or what I think about any given topic isn’t something from which I shy away. Believe me when I say I don’t need your assistance in this matter. In fact your assistance is most unnecessary and unwelcome. It’s apt to be met by a highly energetic and thoroughly negative response.

Open door policy…

The news channels are abuzz this weekend with the decision to allow as many as 10,000 Syrian nationals into the United States. Aside from the logistical issues of bring them a third of the away around the world. Aside from the national security implications of allowing 10,000 lightly vetted people into the country from a part of the world who still seems to think we’re the great Satan. Aside from the issues of international law, common sense, and domestic politics. Aside from all those things I think the whole idea stinks to high heaven.

For the last thirty years, the world has loved to take a swing at America the Punching Bag. We’re everyone’s favorite bad neighbor. We’re the country they absolutely love to hate. And they do hate us… right up to the point where the shit hits the fan and they need someone big enough and strong enough to save the world one more time. We’ll do everything they ask and more and when the crisis has passed we’ll be collectively criticized for not doing enough or not doing it right or not doing it faster. There’s never a nod of thanks or a word of appreciation. With the turning of the news cycle everyone will be right back to cheering “death to America.”

Before we announce an open door policy for tens or hundreds of thousands of people, I think ought to ask a simple question: How many of the countries demanding that America do “something” would let a hundred thousand American citizens just show up in their country with the expectation that they would then be responsible for these people’s health and welfare? How many of these wanna-be great powers would lift a hand to help if our house were on fire? I can think of one or maybe two, but even their offer would certainly have strings attached. I shudder to think what price countries who aren’t our closest allies would demand if suddenly America were on her knees.

I’ll never win humanitarian prizes for my foreign policy. That’s ok. Want to bring in 10,000 people? That’s fine too, but can someone please promise me that these people won’t be free to roam about the country until we’re sure someone over there isn’t smart enough to use a humanitarian crisis as an convenient cover for getting as many terrorists into the country as possible. There are potentially millions of people on the move. If you think our enemies aren’t pondering on ways to use that to their advantage you’ve clearly underestimated them. If we’re bringing people here, we owe it to ourselves to get it 100% right, because the bad guys only have to get it right one time to exact a terribly price for our hospitality.