Debra J. Saunders

 Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies called that "an enormous slap in the face to people who play by the rules, who come legally and become citizens." Why bother if people who flout the rules can vote?

 A Gonzalez statement claims that it takes too long for immigrant parents to become Americans: "Due to government red tape and a long INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) backlog, immigrants must wait an average of 10 years to become citizens."

 Really? Sharon Rummery of Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that while immigrants must be permanent residents for five years to apply for citizenship -- only three years if they're married to a U.S. citizen -- it now takes eight months after application to become a citizen. The process is designed to teach new Americans about how and why democracy works.

 "Why have citizenship at all?" former California Secretary of State Bill Jones asked. "Citizenship is the rite of passage to become an American," Jones added. Immigrants who "don't become Americans, they're just an extension of the country they come from."

 Maybe city politicians don't care whether the new voters consider themselves American.

 A Gonzalez press release quotes an immigrant mother of two who complains that it is "unfair" to make immigrant parents wait "10 years" to become citizens.

 It is unfair. It's also unfair that some people are born American, and others are not. It's unfair some are born rich, and others are not. It's unfair some are born beautiful, while others are not.

 The present immigration system isn't perfect, but it is designed to allow a fair number of immigrants into the United States in as fair a way as possible. The system is designed to produce new citizens with an understanding and affection for their adopted country.

 The Gonzalez measure, however, is designed to undercut that goal by rewarding immigrants who break the law with the right to vote. It is as if San Francisco City Hall set out to teach contempt for the law to America's newest would-be citizens.

Debra J. Saunders

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