Let’s imagine that it’s a summer’s day, and you want to go to the beach to cool off. You pack a few things into a beach bag, grab a chair to sit in, and you’re on your way.
When you arrive at the beach, and there’s just a couple of others already there. You can put your chair down just about anywhere you like, and you find a perfect spot. You set your things down, put on some sun screen, pull out a book, and start to read. Life seems pretty good.
You read for about an hour or so, and as you do the beach becomes increasingly more crowded. It seems like the beach is exactly the place to be on a hot day, and others had the same idea as you did. You don’t like it, so you decide to get up and go for a walk along the water’s edge.
As you’re walking, you notice that people are still continuing to come. And worse, they’re bringing kids with their pails and shovels, and they’re playing music, and they’re leaving their trash behind. And you, who only wanted a quiet day on a peaceful beach, don’t like it. You get it in your head that you can decide who comes to the beach, and who can’t. You’ll take back this beach for yourself, and for the others that you decide can be there.
But you would be wrong to do that, since it’s not your beach to begin with. It never really was, as much as you might have wished it were so when you first arrived. Your right to go to the beach doesn’t trump anyone else’s right to go there, as well.
Now imagine that the beach is the United States of America. It’s the largest beach in all the world, and people have been coming to it for centuries now. But the fact that this keeps happening is not a danger or a threat to the beach itself. Those who are on the beach will have to accept that whatever drew them to the beach is drawing the others to the beach, too. And it’s a big enough beach for anyone who wants to come, even if they don’t look like you or speak your language.
When members of the House of Representatives, all of them Republicans, introduced a bill that would do an end run around the 14th Amendment to the Constitution by ending birthright citizenship, they are trying to make themselves the kings of the beach. They have either forgotten, or perhaps they never knew, that their ancestors who once came to this country weren’t wanted here, either.
Immigrants have a hard life in this country, enduring the disdain of people who don’t want to share the American beach with them. And yet their children assimilate into the American culture, and soon enough the old ways are forgotten. Or, if they are preserved, it’s with the realization that things can never be the same in America as they were back in the old country, whatever country that might be.
The Republicans who introduced this bill, and think it’s a good idea, need to come to grips with what they’re doing. America is a beach, and it always will be. Those who would close or restrict that beach, for whatever reason, are dishonoring their own immigrant ancestors, while also proclaiming a shocking ignorance as to what America is.