Part of me hesitates to delve into this debate, which already seems to be generating at least as much heat as light. But I have to disagree with Nathan Newman's post today on immigration policy and the color line.
Nathan seems to be arguing not only for an open immigration policy but that the very idea of citizenship is tainted, and that it is little more than a tool of racial exclusion, certaily not a concept progressives can have any truck with.
I believe this is a profoundly misguided vision.
First, on the specific issue of immigration policy -- more or less restrictive -- I think there is no denying that an open immigration policy has a depressing effect on wages, particularly at the low end and especially if a large percentage of immigrants are undocumented and thus easy to exploit in the workplace.
That said, I also think it's because we have and will continue to have a relatively open immigration policy that Social Security, for instance, will be in much better shape in 50 years than the official projections suggest. So in purely economic terms, I think there are decent arguments on both sides.
But to the question of immigration and citizenship itself, there's no reason one can't be pro-immigration and also support a robust ideal of citizenship. In fact I think a progressive vision for this country is inextricably linked to a robust idea of citizenship.
I'm very pro-globalization, very internationalist in foreign policy and outlook. But, to me, citizenship is inherently unitary. It implies not only membership but allegiance to a political community and a state. To my way of thinking, one can no sooner be a citizen of two countries than a husband to two wives or a wife to two husbands (or, just cover all our bases, a husband to two husbands, etc.) The very idea is a solecism in civic thought.
To my mind, this isn't a conservative view. It's a liberal one. One of the things that makes us all equal as citizens is the fundamental reality that makes us citizens: membership and allegiance to this political community, this country. That's what allows an immigrant citizen to be just as much an American as the guy whose ancestors came on the Mayflower.
Citizenship is the basis of our equality as Americans.
Nathan's whole line of thinking seems to run in the other direction.