Sunday, July 11, 2010

This Violates the Law How?

When I returned from Arizona recently, someone asked me 'How was it?'  I said it was 'Great', but they persisted with 'But really, how was it?'  Huh?  "I mean with the illegals.  Did you see a lot of them?" 
Well, not being able to spot one that easily and not wanting to further the discussion, I just said 'No'. 

Not a day goes by without news of the Arizona law that will soon take effect regarding illegal aliens, a law that sets out to enforce what our Federal Government is supposed to be doing.  This is the same Federal Government that decided to force citizens to purchase health insurance, whether they want it or not.  But making sure that people are in this country legally?  Not so important.  So, I've been thinking about my own experiences with 'proof of citizenship'.

My mother's family came here from Cordenons, Italy, after the First World War.  She had two older sisters who were born in Italy.  My mother was born in International Falls,  MN.  One of her sisters became an American citizen and resided in Detroit.  The other moved to Windsor and lived with her family in 'Little Italy'.

We would visit my Canadian cousins several times a year.  Every time we crossed the border we were all asked for our place of birth.  My father, sister and I would all say 'Detroit'.  My mother would say 'International Falls, MN' and would promptly be asked to show her identification.  Out came the birth certificate, the original no less, and after examination by customs, we went on our way.  I never understood why she just didn't say 'Detroit'.  It's not like they had her picture up in the custom's office with 'Minnesota' written on it.  And that still made her a US citizen anyway.  But she never, ever questioned being asked.  By the time she died, that certificate was pretty well-worn.

Folks who complain about being asked for ID and proof of citizenship should try traveling overseas.  I was really surprised when I was required to get a visa to visit Australia.  A visa, really?  Luckily I qualified for an electronic version.  I have been looking at visiting Russia, but have been told to begin my visa application at least three months before the visit, no later.

A few years ago, I was on a train from Vienna to Budapest.  I was told that when we reached the Hungarian border, the Hungarian Police would board the train to check our documents.  I was told to offer my documents and not to try to make any small talk with the agents.  When they left our compartment, we all breathed a sigh of relief.  They were some scary, looking people and we were not even doing anything wrong.  

When I traveled through Europe in the sixties, every border crossing was an adventure - physically switching trains, or planes, converting currency at the border, no matter that it was the middle of the night, answering all sorts of questions about why we wanted to enter the country, etc.  Traveling was taken seriously, let alone immigration.

So, I have a hard time thinking that Arizona is doing something 'morally wrong'.  I am pretty sure if I overstay a visa in other foreign countries, yelling racial profiling will not win me amnesty.  Not all of my relatives gained access to the United States.  Many of them are still in Canada.  Maybe that is what you get for being a law-abiding citizen of wherever. But it is a system that works and has served many countries well, for a very long time.

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