I am the daughter of legal immigrants from the Philippines who proudly chose to become Americans. They stood in line, aced their citizenship tests, filed tons of paperwork, and -- speaking in English -- swore allegiance to the United States. The 206-year-old oath my parents took declares, in part:
"I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty ... I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic ... I will bear arms on behalf of the United States ... I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."
For millions of naturalized Americans like my parents, the oath of allegiance is sacred. It is a solemn public commitment to embrace and defend American laws and institutions. The rights and responsibilities that accompany this coveted status are earned privileges, not free entitlements. That is why the widespread assault on American citizenship is a grave insult not only to native-born Americans, but also to families like mine who played by the rules to get here -- and to stay.
Everywhere you turn, American citizenship is being devalued:
-- On the ball field, relatives of America's now-scandal-ridden Little League team from the Bronx waved Dominican Republic flags -- not our Stars and Stripes.
-- On the Internet, the new Bush White House Web site unveiled this week includes two versions -- one in English, one in Spanish.
-- The English-language requirement for naturalized Americans has been gutted, and many ethnic groups are lobbying to drop the oath of allegiance that new Americans have taken for more than two centuries.
-- In Amherst, Mass., left-wing locals are once again pushing voting rights for non-U.S. citizens -- a trend pioneered in my home county of Montgomery County, Md., where noncitizens in five communities are allowed to vote in local elections, and in Chicago and New York, where noncitizens can vote for school board.
-- And on the international scene, Mexican president Vicente Fox challenged President Bush this week to approve a "bilateral migration policy." Translation: Allow illegal Mexican workers to jump ahead of the line while law-abiding immigrants from all other countries patiently wait their turn.
Although Bush has backed away from using the term "amnesty," it is clear that he is toying with the same craven politics of pandering to the illegal alien lobby that the Clinton-Gore administration embraced. In an election-year effort to manufacture new votes, Clinton-Gore launched a "Citizenship USA" campaign in 1996 to expedite naturalization for more than a million aliens. Nearly 200,000 never underwent required fingerprint checks. More than 80,000 had disqualifying criminal records.
The message this sends to families like mine is that we are chumps. Why should we bother to obey the law? Or learn English? Why study American history in order to earn the right to vote if liberal enclaves across the country are going to enfranchise noncitizens -- who don't even have to be able to read their ballots in English, let alone name the three branches of government?
Both the movement to naturalize illegal aliens and the drive to give voting rights to legal permanent aliens have a shared target audience: Mexicans. Many have absolutely no intention of assimilating here, but they will gladly take what kowtowing U.S. politicians give them. President Bush, courting Latino leaders, says he simply wants to find a way to "legalize the hard work" of Mexicans who crossed our borders illegally. But illegal aliens from Mexico aren't the only immigrants who do hard work.
Exclusive amnesty for line-jumping Mexicans is a slap in the face to all other immigrants -- from the Korean grocer and Ethiopian restaurateur, to the Indian cab driver, British schoolteacher and Filipino nurse -- who came through the front door, toil gladly, reject the free-ride mentality and follow the rule of law.
The founding fathers didn't envision the naturalization process as a means to boost the labor supply or the voting rolls. The ultimate end, the purpose, of granting American citizenship is to help create one people who share a common allegiance. It is a tragedy that we've now given the enemies of our constitutional republic the keys to flood our gates and trash our home.