Monday, July 4, 2011

Thoughts on Independence Day.

Today is July 4th, the 235th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, which formerly symbolized the independence of the thirteen original colonies from Great Britain. It contains some some of the most inspirational words in the history of man, and with oft-quoted words being
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
These words have served as an inspiration for generations of people, from the French (see- French Revolution) to Germany, to Canada, and even Ho Chi Minh to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It represents a moral standard to which the United States of America must strive for, a ringing bell to improve the plight of those who suffer. Yet, when this was adopted, we couldn't completely say this phrase without keeping a straight face, because slavery was prevalent at the time, a stunning contrast to the phase that "all men are created equal." As time went on, we slowly began to push this phrase closer to reality, but we still couldn't say it  with certainty. Jim Crow was still around, making men unequal among us. Today, Jim Crow is gone, thanks to the civil rights movement who struggled make sure that this famous phrase was applied to the South. But today, we still cannot say with utmost certainty that "all men are created equal." Today, scores of new laws passed in states around the nation are tailored to deny that immigrants are among the men that are created equal, when the great majority come here to work and respect this country- and grateful to it for the chances it gives. Most of these laws are copycat versions of the original law enacted in Arizona, S.B 1070. Some of the most draconian laws, such as the one in Alabama, which requires, in a blatantly and discriminatory manner, requires public school districts to determine the immigration status of it's own students and their parents and report them states. Furthermore, it provides a challenge to the Supreme Court's ruling in Plyler v. Doe, which ruled that
The Fourteenth Amendment provides that "[n]o State shall. . . deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." (Emphasis added.) Appellants argue at the outset that undocumented aliens, because of their immigration status, are not "persons within the jurisdiction" of the State of Texas, and that they therefore have no right to the equal protection of Texas law. We reject this argument. Whatever his status under the immigration laws, an alien is surely a "person" in any ordinary sense of that term. Aliens, even aliens whose presence in this country is unlawful, have long been recognized as "persons" guaranteed due process of law by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Indeed, we have clearly held that the Fifth Amendment protects aliens whose presence in this country is unlawful from invidious discrimination by the Federal Government...Neither our cases nor the logic of the Fourteenth Amendment supports that constricting construction of the phrase "within its jurisdiction." The Equal Protection Clause was intended to work nothing less than the abolition of all caste-based and invidious class-based legislation...Use of the phrase "within its jurisdiction" thus does not detract from, but rather confirms, the understanding that the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment extends to anyone, citizen or stranger, who is subject to the laws of a State, and reaches into every corner of a State's territory. That a person's initial entry into a State, or into the United States, was unlawful, and that he may for that reason be expelled, cannot negate the simple fact of his presence within the State's territorial perimeter. Given such presence, he is subject to the full range of obligations imposed by the State's civil and criminal laws. And until he leaves the jurisdiction — either voluntarily, or involuntarily in accordance with the Constitution and laws of the United States — he is entitled to the equal protection of the laws that a State may choose to establish.
 As The New York Times aptly states,
The state’s law seems designed to challenge that ruling, as it turns school officials into de facto immigration agents and impels frightened parents to keep their children home.      
We still have along way to go in order to ensure that "all men are created equal" and that all men are ensured with unalienable Rights, "that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Yet, we closer to reaching those goals than most of the countries around the world are. We have a long way to go, but let us remember that we must strive to uphold those goals and that statement with the utmost regard, to everyone who lives and resides in this nation, in the United States of America. 


Happy Independence Day, people. Happy 235th birthday, America.