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Unbowed, unbent, undocumented

| Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Unbowed, citizenship — more than a birthright — is a vocation, is more than a document; it is a duty to uphold the ideological sentiments upon which the nation was founded in the first place. How often does this calling dissolve into a soft murmur? Millennia ago, in the age of ancient Greece, cradle of Western Civilization, citizenship was earned. We know and admire the Spartans, how through the “agoge” their children were chiseled into unwavering engines of death. Clad in bronze plates and draped in crimson cloth, it was only in the midst of the sheer brutality of combat that a Lacedaemonian earned the right to call himself a citizen of Sparta. And what of Athens? Where democracy was born and suckled on the words of cloaked senators debating the erection of an aqueduct, or the impracticalities of agrarian reform, or the execution of some obscure sophist. Of course, many aspects of these societies are repugnant to our modern sensibilities. Rightfully so. Yet, regardless of their government’s inefficacies and moral shortcomings, there is something attractive in such audacious commitment to principle. The question, then, of the myriad of undocumented members of American society has never struck me as a matter of strict legalism. For if the only correlative of citizenship in our community is a piece of paper, something as arbitrary as having been born within the confines of a correct border, then I am afraid we’re underserving of the mantle of civilization. To be precise, clearly citizenship necessitates a technical legal definition and tangible forms to accompany it. However, there are measures far more consequential as to what makes an American. Many of these undocumented persons, especially those attending university, exemplify the ideals upon which this edifice, our nation, is founded, despite a lack of legal recognition.

Unbent is the resolve of these young men and women. Consider for a moment the unequivocal, yet unimaginable hardships undocumented students brace. The transition from adolescents to university life can be difficult for anyone. However, to be an undocumented student means not only having no familial history of pursuing a higher education in the U.S.; it means you must live in incessant insecurity. Tuesday, the Trump administration formally announced the decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). This program allows hundreds of thousands of undocumented youth the means to study, work and pursue some semblance of a dignified life in the U.S. Ending the DACA program is not only morally reprehensible, it as an utter waste of social capital. DACA recipients were raised here. They attend our schools and worship in our parishes. They pay taxes. They know no other home except the United States of America. They are citizens in every respect, except in name. That those among them who attend university somehow avoid breaking down into a state of utter despondency, and better yet, carry themselves with poise, striving in the face of social, financial and legal barriers, is incredible. I doubt I have ever met a Spartan, but the fortitude these students have smacks of a warrior’s spirit and their enemy is far more elusive than any Persian horde.

Undocumented, it is spirit wherein lies all that is great in our republic. 20th century English intellectual G.K Chesterton observed, “America is the only nation in the world founded on a creed.” What constitutes our American Creed? Free commercial enterprise, an adamant love for liberty and equality and a yearning for self-determined, vibrant communities. Yet, our history is rife with examples of government’s failure to live up to these principles. What is worse, under the pretense of propagating our civil religion, we have committed the greatest sins against it. We manifested our destiny through imperial conquest, warring with Mexico over control of the Western territories, taking the lands of and disenfranchising those who had lived in those regions for generations. It is difficult to ignore the irony of the situation. When Eva Longoria emphatically declares, “The border crossed us,” she means it literally. No, open borders are not a viable means of rectifying the errors of our past. In fact, a country has every right to secure its boundaries and enforce legal avenues for immigration. However, for those who have cultivated a life here, for those who have strenuously scaled the echelons of our society, obtaining access to institutions of higher learning, and contributing to the economic growth of their local communities: these have earned their citizenship. They have been chiseled, sculpted into Americans. I implore all Notre Dame students who have any interest in assisting current DACA recipients to reach out to the Student Coalition for Immigration Advocacy. Furthermore, all who desire concrete action against the injustices posed by this administration should reach out to their representatives and implore them to support legislation that allows Undocumented students a path to citizenship. For if our nation is predicated on a creed, these immigrants have received a baptism of desire. This, then, is a model of our civic values: to weather the threat of deportation, to live in fear that at any moment the fate of your entire family can be endangered and yet remain steadfast, resolute,



The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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