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Listen: Political Scientist Elizabeth Cohen '95 on America's Semi-Citizens

Elizabeth F. Cohen on America’s Semi-Citizens: Immigration Politics in the United States

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This spring, Elizabeth Cohen '95, associate professor of political science at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, returned to campus to discuss "America's Semi-Citizens: Immigration Politics in the United States." In her talk, Cohen explores the ways citizens are not fully included and enfranchised in the United States.

Cohen, who specializes in contemporary and modern political theory, history of political thought, immigration, and citizenship, is the author of Semi-Citizenship in Democratic Politics (2009), in which she introduces the concept of semi-citizenship as a means of advancing debates about individuals who hold some but not all elements of full democratic citizenship. She is also the author of The Political Value of Time (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2017) and Immigration in Our Time (for review by the Russell Sage Foundation Press), which assesses the ways in which the U.S. might enfranchise the large number of undocumented immigrants despite deep political disagreements over their presence. Her essay, "Why Trump's immigration policies will increase undocumented immigration," recently appeared in Politico. 

Cohen graduated with Honors from Swarthmore with a double major in philosophy and sociology and anthropology and minor in political science. She earned her doctorate from Yale University. Her talk, sponsored by the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, preceded a complementary panel discussion on the sanctuary movement. 

Audio Transcript

Host:                                          Elizabeth Cohen, we're really happy to have with us today, is Associate {rofessor of Political Science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. A lot of other affiliations too. [crosstalk 00:00:11] We'll read through a couple of them, but it's also Senior Research Associate at Campbell Public Affairs institute there. Here's a really interesting one: Co-Director, Research Experience in Ethics and Health, and that's a collaboration between SUNY and Yale as well, that is, I guess, Syracuse. Was a visiting scholar recently at Russell City Foundation.

                                                      Elizabeth, in addition to being an associate professor at Syracuse, has her PhD in Political Science from Yale University, and maybe most significantly, has her undergraduate degree from Swarthmore majoring not in political science, but in sociology and anthropology, minoring in both political science and philosophy, and minoring in Hans [inaudible 00:00:52], who is shown here. Really terrific, what a lot of us know to be a great social and political philosophy honors seminar with Hans.

                                                      Professor Cohen is the author of "Semi-citizenship and Democratic Politics". That was published by Cambridge Press, and that's going to relate to some of the comments that you're talking about today, as well as a more recent publications, like on political article that I first circulated through e-mail on the Trump Administration policies on undocumented immigration.

                                                      Also, the author of "The Political Value of Time", also with Cambridge Press. That's forthcoming, as well as another book by manuscript that's coming out with Russell Sage, right? [crosstalk 00:01:33] on the politics of immigration and immigration reform with Russell Sage. You've been a very busy person, a real credit to Swarthmore with scholarship and with writing, and we're super happy to welcome you and hope that the backhoes keep it quiet there in the construction site. Welcome to Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth Cohen:               Thank you so much, I want to thank [inaudible 00:01:55] Colina and Ben for inviting me. This is a place that's meant a lot to me and it's just ... I was very overwhelmed when I came back on campus. It is almost 27 years to the day, think I got that right, since I received my acceptance letter to Swarthmore, and I'm so grateful for everything that I was able to acquire while I was here, both academically and personally. Especially grateful to Hans, who brought me into the study of political theory. I will say that it's also daunting to be here, because I remember really clearly how high my expectations were when there was a visiting speaker. I imagine that they were thinking really impressive things and I can assure you that now that I'm thinking the things up here, they're not as impressive as what I thought they would be as a student. I'm hoping that we can have a really good conversation together, because one thing I know about Swarthmore students is that they raise the bar for everyone around them.

                                                      Ben asked me to speak today generally on the subject of citizenship and immigration, and since that's a really dull and un-newsworthy topic these days, I was not sure what to say, so I thought I would just tell you a little bit about what I've been thinking lately. Not just in reaction to the most recent things that we've been seeing in the newspapers like the Muslim ban or mass deportation, questions about sanctuary, but with a broader view to where we've been headed over a slightly longer period of time.

                                                      I also want to say that if any point, I'm going to do a little political theory and then a little bit of policy and law side of things, but if at any point you're like, "This is not where we should be right now," and you want to interrupt with a question or to redirect, I'm totally fine. Just talking about whatever it is that's on your minds. It's anywhere [inaudible 00:03:52] that I speak with authority.

                                                      I'm going to overview the things I've been thinking and one of the things that I think a lot about is how and whether people are fully included. I think I was thinking about this when I was here already. Whether people are fully included and enfranchised in a developed democracy, regardless of whether you think they are, or whether you think they should be, what's the actual state of citizenship as opposed to the way we throw the term around?

                                                      One of the things that struck me over the years, or one of the things that's struck me continually, is that we are not all fully enfranchised. In fact, it's quite common for people to not have rights of citizenship. Maybe some, but not all. In my parlance, as Ben mentioned, we see among our ranks a number of people who are semi-citizens. There are many reasons for this. I'm not going to be able to talk about all of them, but I want to point out one of the less obvious, but maybe more fundamental ones. That is that there is a paradox in our politics. We're in a liberal democratic state, and there's a paradox. This thing, citizenship, it's supposed to, we say it's supposed to impose some kind of identical, uniform status on all of us.

                                                      We know we're not all the same. In fact, we're pretty happy about that, but when you go out in public, we're kind of cloaked in this thing, this status, that treats us as if we're all the same before the eyes of the law. If you read any theorist of citizenship, you will see that almost all of them expect, anticipate, assume there will be exceptions to this uniform political status, that there will be some of these semi-citizens is both not anticipated and anticipated by the people who thought about this most deeply.

                                                      The citizenship that I'm talking about, I know that not everybody talks about this word the same way, but when I'm speaking right now, I just want to talk about our rights. The rights that we have or the rights that people don't have. Rights vary across countries; we don't all have exactly the same set of rights in between countries, but just very loosely I'll say, our rights include civil rights and liberties, political rights of participation and representation, and then social rights. The social rights we have are intended, when we actually have them, to [inaudible 00:06:18] against the worst inequalities brought about in capitalism.

                                                      Then we have rights of legal nationality that commit residents and freedom of movement within and across the borders, so that we can assume leave the country and come back, which is, of course, in question right now, and also that we can move freely within our own borders.

                                                      Having stipulated that we don't all actually always have all of these rights, even though in many cases we're all qualified for citizenship, I want to talk a little bit about why it is. I'll say that I think we have a couple of founding doctrines in a liberal democracy, in any liberal democracy, although I will mostly be talking about the one where [inaudible 00:07:07] right now.

                                                      In [inaudible 00:07:10] liberalism, we have something I'll call ethical democracy in democratic theory. How many of you have taken a democratic theory class [inaudible 00:07:19]? Okay, you've taught. Some kind of administrative doctrine. We have liberal universalism, just this belief that we are actually all in some way inherently equal and that entitles us to equal standing before the law. Liberalism is really unfriendly to borders. When we're talking about having a boundary and some people are included and some people are excluded, that doesn't generally come from liberalism because if we're actually inherently equal, then it's very difficult to make distinctions that would entitle some people to be somewhere and other people not to be in that place. Boundaries are difficult within liberalism.

                                                      Democratic theory is very friendly to some kind of boundaries. A demos, a people, it must be bounded. It's usually bounded and connected to some kind of ethical tradition. Then finally we have states, right? We have the actual apparatus that gets things done in a practical way. Reason of state. States, it's a [inaudible 00:08:25] thing, they don't really think, insofar as there's some kind of logic to states, basically the state, they're going to be efficient and they're going to preserve sovereignty, and they're going to want to preserve our security. The state's here to keep us safe. Maybe not in the way we want to become safe, but the state would say, "I think [inaudible 00:08:43] in the same way. I want a large, healthy population that's productive and lives as long as its life expectancy can possibly be stretched."

                                                      Those are three ways of thinking about citizenship, and you can see they're in conflict with each other and I think you can probably see we need all three of these things to have a little democratic state, right? You can't get rid of the state; something has to administer us. You can't get rid of democratic theory if you want to have a democracy, and we still like the idea of some kind of equality. You have all these three things working together, but actually at some points working against each other too. When those conflicts happen, the doctrines have to resolve and they resolve by compromising, and they compromise our rights. What gets compromised is actually our citizenship.

                                                      When I talk about semi-citizenship, I actually think that, although we might expect citizenship to be the norm, we might expect we're all going to have this status of citizen, actually the norm is that people move in and out of semi-citizenship throughout the course of their lives. We might qualify it according to one doctrine and not another. Children, right? Nobody is born a full citizen. Children have pretty impoverished civil and political and even free movement rights. It would be difficult to let children move across borders without any kind of supervision. Incarcerated persons are semi-citizens in much the same way that children are, with very impoverished sets of political, civil, and freedom of movement rights.

                                                      This is something we've all experienced. Like I said, more than [inaudible 00:10:30] exception. No one's going to get away without this.

                                                      Although I'm really interested in lots of manifestations of semi-citizenship, I think that the one that we are focused on probably most closely right now, the one I think most about lately, are people not born territory in which they are living. Immigrants, non-nationals, foreign-born person. They're probably the least example around most of the people without full rights, but they're also at the center of some pretty huge debates, and those debates have been going on for several decades at least.

                                                      Now I want to talk about these groups. In particular, I want to talk about assigning citizenship, so how we got our citizenship for those of us who have some or all of the rights of citizens. Then I also want to talk about how we move from being semi-citizen to being a full citizen.

                                                      Most people in this room I would wager, most but not all, have birthright citizenship. Not necessarily here, but birthright citizenship is usually said to be conferred using one of two principles. One is principle of land. You solely went out [inaudible 00:11:54] soil or a principle of blood [inaudible 00:12:00]. In either case, it's a birthright principle. Notice one thing that these two things have in common: neither of them is or could be democratic. It's not possible.

                                                      You might be tempted, I know lots of times people are tempted to think, "Oh well, use [inaudible 00:12:17] get a citizenship in a place, giving to everybody who's in that place, was born in that place, that's really liberal and maybe democratic." This kind of race-based blood, depends on who your parents were, that's illiberal. We prefer one to the other and think it's more democratic, but in neither case do any of us consent to our citizenship. It was given to us well before we could consent. We had no choice about it. It's difficult to actually get rid of it even if we did want to do it. Also, nobody consented to us, so if you're born in whatever ungodly recent year you were born, you're like, "No, I didn't get to agree to this." You were born into citizenship. No dissent from either side.

                                                      You'll also probably notice that in an era of mass migration, these principles are really unworkable because if things are set when we're born and people move places, they don't contain any mechanism for us to change our citizenship when we go places. That's also very complicated. We need some kind of procedure that allows people to change citizenships and also pays at least some kind of lip service to the idea of [inaudible 00:13:28] business in a democracy. We usually refer to this as naturalization. Naturalization is kind of, loosely, some process of mutual consent. You consent to your new citizenship and the receiving [inaudible 00:13:43].

                                                      The naturalization rules that exist vary a little bit across countries. There are a few commonalities to these. Loyalty oaths are common. Civics tests are common. Waiting periods are pretty common. Waiting period in which prospective citizens have to live in the country and seek citizenship. I think so far so good, but just in your head, stop for a moment and think about these requirements and then think about whether you believe those to be good requirements.

                                                      I think the most arduous of these, I could be wrong, but I think the most arduous is the waiting period. Once you've achieved the status of legal permanent resident in the United States, which is actually itself difficult to achieve, generally you've got to live here continuously for five years to be eligible to naturalize. That continuousness is really important. I have friends who are trying to naturalize. They will count the days that they're away from this country, say they're visiting family, because there's only so many of those that you have before they can start the clock over and you can't naturalize.

                                                      I always want to think about the waiting period and my interpretation of the waiting period is that we're having a transaction in which somebody's being asked to do or give something in exchange for citizenship. That transaction's happening through the medium of time. We're kind of using time as a form of currency to transact over rights and citizenship. It's just one, but it's an extremely important way we have of allowing this transition between a large group of people who are not fully enfranchised and bringing them into the demos.

                                                      Good, right, because unlike your place of birth or your racial blood heritage, the passage of time can permit people who didn't luck out and have those statuses and previously weren't considered qualified to be citizens, it permits them to become citizens.

                                                      We think things about this period of time. If I were to stop and take a survey and I asked each of you, I'm not going to put you on the spot, but if I were to ask each of you why do you think we need people waiting, you'd have a bunch of different answers. We wouldn't all agree. We don't need to agree. We wouldn't all agree on what the meaning of that time is, but I'm pretty sure that you'd have some kind of answer, it has some kind of meaning. I don't think most people would say it's totally meaningless.

                                                      I think then, that we can generalize, even if we don't think [inaudible 00:16:34] has the same meaning, we can generalize and say that the period of time has some kind of value, even if we disagree about what that value is, we would I think also pretty readily agree to the idea that people's time, as value to people's time, adds value to them. Also, as a poll here as a group, we think that the time means something about a person's political status.

                                                      I'll just draw out a few things that I'm saying here. I'm saying measured time is some [inaudible 00:17:08] of embodying, representing, translating intangible things. Whatever it is you think a citizen should be, translating those things into more concrete terms and allowing us then to exchange that time for some status, citizenship. For giving [inaudible 00:17:32] this probationary period of time, right, [inaudible 00:17:35] resident and wait, it allows them to demonstrate that they deserve or are capable or have actually become citizens.

                                                      If we go back, I asked you to think about the way in which we transform people into citizens and what you think this means. Perhaps it will be the case that you think that one of the things you thought about that process is that it was somehow connected to merit or [inaudible 00:18:05] or deservedness, that this is kind of what's going on when we say, "Just wait and let's see."

                                                      If loyalty or civic knowledge qualifies somebody, and then we decide we're going to measure that you've become loyal or that you've come to know our democracy. We're going to measure that in a period of time and exchange that time. Time's a powerful form of currency, right? You would think there are all kinds of other ways in which we do this. A really common one is we no longer draw and quarter people or flog them or tar them and pelt them, right? We mostly tend to put people in prison when they have strayed for periods of time. [inaudible 00:18:51] lengths of time.

                                                      There's something to this. I think the time is not just convenient, I think we like this as a way of judging whether people are qualified to enter or come back into polity. I think we think it's fair and equal, that time is somehow more egalitarian than some of the other things we could do. For example, we could just charge people money if they want to become citizens, right, but if I were to, again, [inaudible 00:19:26] if I were to ask you, "Oh, should we just charge people money to become citizens?", I think you would easily come up with a number of arguments about why this is totally unfair and would not give us a particularly representative swath of the people who want to enter the country and stay here.

Speaker 3:                              Excuse me?

Elizabeth Cohen:               Yeah.

Speaker 3:                              I learned when I went to a recent talk on immigration law that there is a status of green card, I think it's called the investment path?

Elizabeth Cohen:               The investor visa, actually, it [inaudible 00:19:53] you a green card, but it doesn't duck you in the queue, so you still have to wait five years to naturalize.

Speaker 4:                              Does it cost money? Is that what you're saying [inaudible 00:20:00]?

Speaker 3:                              Yeah, that you can buy a green card if you have enough money.

Elizabeth Cohen:               Yes, but you can't buy your way out of the five-year waiting period after you have the green card to naturalize.

Speaker 3:                              Small difference.

Elizabeth Cohen:               Well, if you want citizenship for some reason, you can't get it in the United States. The fastest you could do would be to be on active duty in the military. That's the only status that allows you to naturalize [inaudible 00:20:22].

Speaker 3:                              I thought a precursor to naturalization is getting your green card. Being able to purchase it is a small difference to purchasing citizenship.

Elizabeth Cohen:               Again, it depends on how you feel about five years. I think a lot of people don't think five years is a small difference. If you want a new citizenship, there are a few places in the world that will give you instant citizenship. Malta is one of them. If you have enough money, you can buy Maltese citizenship and buy your way into [inaudible 00:20:50] immediately. I really don't think if I were to impose a restriction on somebody for five years, that they would find that a small price. I think that it is [inaudible 00:21:05] came at a much higher price, but I don't think five years is easy [inaudible 00:21:10]. Yeah. We can come back to this because I am going to go in the direction that you're going not too long from now.

                                                      I think that when we choose time over something like say, buying your way into immediate citizenship, or even like, "Oh, you own property," which is a classic argument of another era. You own property, you're invested here, we'll give you citizenship. Kind of seems a little to treat people more fairly because unlike property or money, the clock's going to tick at the same rate for everybody. We think it's a little bit fairer.

                                                      If we want to treat people as if they're morally equal, which liberalism said it does, then this allows us to take that extension of your moral equality, and so we then turn you into somebody who's politically equal as well. Then we talk a little bit then about immigration politics. [inaudible 00:22:21] into the subject that you're probably most interested in.

                                                      For most of US history, which to me is stunning, for most of US history, one of the most important qualities we sought in an immigrant was that somebody be willing to stay here. During the founding, we had a word for this. We called people who meant to stay here, we called them "intentioners", because their intent was to come and settle in the United States. The thinking was we want people with a commitment to democracy, a rare thing at the time, and also to our country, to being here. It was a distinct place and we wanted people who were willing to commit to become American.

                                                      We thought that people who wanted to stay here for a short period of time, work, make money, and leave, we thought of those people as freeloaders because they benefit from the goods provided by democracy, but they never commit themselves to making it part of their long-term project. A belief that this is how we distinguish between good and bad immigrants, wasn't the only way we distinguished, but the belief that this is how we should distinguish between good and bad immigrants, it was so long-standing and really strong, that the nation's first version of comprehensive immigration reform actually focused on distinguishing between people who would and would not stay.

                                                      That's the [inaudible 00:23:38] immigration history, 1924 National Origins [inaudible 00:23:43] Act, which was highly racialized law that used really bad, bad, spurious social science to try to connect people to race to qualities including, but not limited to, whether they would want to stay here. I look around now at the political landscape that we all inhabit, and I do not see any remnants of this principle at all.

                                                      In the last 20 years we have seen the proliferation of, in fact, the opposite, which are temporary immigration statuses. Particularly temporary work, temporary asylum, and then people who are working without papers, that give people at best partial rights of citizenship on a short-term, renewable basis. That's at best. That's really new. Most of the country's history, we would have regarded this as an outlaw. We are doing ourselves in with people who aren't going to stay.

                                                      Legal origins I date back mostly to the middle of the 20th century. The first moment I think we really went all in on this was the Bracero Program, which may or may not be familiar to you if you studied immigration history. The Bracero Program started in 1942 tendering seasonal workers from Mexico on very short-term, really, really restrictive, inhumane labor contracts. We had other inhumane versions of labor in this country before. Indentured servants, [inaudible 00:25:14] workers who would never become eligible to naturalize. The Bracero workers were recruited on the condition that their employers make sure they get out of the country after a short period and really hard [inaudible 00:25:26] work. [inaudible 00:25:29] 1924, we basically shut down most of the immigration from Europe. We were saying, "You are and never will be welcome to become citizens." That was a huge change in our process.

                                                      One year later, we did something else that gets a little less attention. We've publicly apologized for the Bracero Program. We've called it legalized slavery and said that this was a terrible thing. One year later, we started a program to bring in mostly Jamaican workers under a program called H2 visa programs to mostly work in sugar plantations. H2 program, unlike Bracero program, that still exists. Our short-term visas still come in under H2 program, which we permanently incorporated into our immigration law.

                                                      Similar process has unfolded for non-worker immigration. We got short-term workers. We also, in 1961, we started Fulbright [inaudible 00:26:33] initiated J1 visa for visitors engaged in study or some kind of cultural exchange, and then shortly after, we got the F1 visa, which is probably familiar to some of you, because that's a student visa. These programs ensure that people who were born outside of the United States but educated here would not be automatically allowed to stay here.

                                                      During the second third of the 20th century, we basically erected a large, a massive system of temporary immigration. [inaudible 00:27:10] temporary immigration proliferated, even as we started to get a little nervous about people who were immigrating to stay. It's become a pervasive part of not only our society, but also our economy.

                                                      At the same time, undocumented immigration also kept peaking upwards. Second precarious path for temporariness is coming here without papers and [inaudible 00:27:37] be deported and [inaudible 00:27:40]. I'll just, as an aside, say we also developed, or started to use as temporary asylum, right, so temporary protected status, deferred differentiation, deferred departure. We have 300,000 people living in this country year to year or two-year or three-year stints who we've been telling them, "If it's not safe for you to go home, we're not going to force you to go home." You may have raised children here at this point, you've been here for several decades, well we are not going to let you stay or tell you you can have a plan more than one, two, or three years out.

                                                      Between 2001 and 2010, the number of people admitted to perform temporary labor legally jumped from, doubled, from 1.5 - 3 million. Most of these people entered with H-1A or H-2A visas and brought their family with them. You're capped under those programs, so there's only a certain number of years you can be in this country before you absolutely have to leave, unless you can readjust your status.

                                                      Crucially, and this is probably I think the thing that's most front and center for you guys, is DACA. I imagine everybody here at this point knows somebody who received a DACA status. DACA's time-limited. I know a lot of us are in panic mode right now for a number of reasons, but one of them being we want to preserve DACA. DACA's really new. Because starting to think about DACA, we're giving people political status that allows them to work, go to school maybe, but explicitly predicated on the idea that they will never be able to become citizens under DACA, no matter how long they're here.

                                                      DACA conjures an image, right? It's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It conjures an image of somebody young who is vulnerable and brought here before they can consent to this. We are going to, if DACA remains, have older, much older people who are here under DACA and that strikes me as really morally dubious.

                                                      These and then the related developments I was describing, I think it ushered in an era of mass at-will residency and at-will employment, so you can be terminated at any point. We've got at-will residency, semi-citizenship, if you will. These avenues have proliferated, and the ranks of people living here temporarily totally dependent on the discretion of employers or schools or government bureaucrats, their ranks have swelled.

                                                      Let me just go back, and I'll finish up pretty soon. Let me go back and just point out what this means in terms of some of the arguments that I made that were less concrete and more theoretical. I started by talking about semi-citizenship and the causes, those imperfectly overlapping doctrines that come up against each other and are [inaudible 00:30:38] compromised political statuses. Then I moved to talking about one of the main reasons that non-citizens and semi-citizens can actually become citizens; can transform themselves or be transformed. Then I said that one of the means of this transformation is the passage of durations of time.

                                                      Now, I pointed out, we have a large number of people who's time will never be treated as having that value that I said time was recorded. [inaudible 00:31:06]. There are many, many ways we would say this is an honest way to get citizenship. [inaudible 00:31:12] long-term residents and a lot of people who don't have citizenship. It's at odds with many, many things we believe.

                                                      I'll just say one that has received less attention is time, right? Time is supposed to fulfill this mandate, "Oh time treats us more equally than property or your aristocratic birth." If we say that that time has value and then we tell some people, "You can never become a citizen no matter how much time passes," even if you're never going to [inaudible 00:31:47] citizen, we cheated them, right? Everybody else's time has value, but you, this group, your time has no value. You can never become a citizen. Not only is the time that those people, DACA recipients or undocumented workers, it's never credited towards regularization to become a citizen. It's also, in most cases, not permitting them access to other full rights.

                                                      For some contemporary immigrants, in particular, the guest workers and you [inaudible 00:32:22] the political piece that I published, you know I think that we are headed toward on having or raising caps on guest workers coming into this country. No amount of time will ever allow them the status. We used to actually have a workaround for this. We have something called a registry date. If you were here by a certain date for a certain period of time, no matter how you had been here, we were going to let you regularize. We hadn't updated the registry dates since 1972, which was before I was born, so it was a while ago. I think something really insidious is going on.

                                                      I think at best, what we've now said is not just your time has no value, I think we're saying ... to some people, "You are not deserving of citizenship. Other people's time is worth more than your time. Your time may have no value at all because time or work or various other things, these are proxies for demonstrating your capability, like I said before, your capability or your relationship to develop different character as a citizen, new character, we're saying you don't have those things. Your character is not able to be transformed into a citizen's character. You are not capable of being a citizen. Even if everything you have done, except for the moment in which you went from having papers to having no papers, every single thing that you've done is the same as some other immigrant. You just can't make those things add up to, make that time add up to an entitlement that's deserving for citizenship.

                                                      Time is supposed to apply to everybody. The clock is supposed to tick at the same rate for everybody else, but the clock is basically not ticking at all if your time will never have any value. To treat somebody's time as valueless is tantamount to denying their capacity for citizenship. It is therefore tantamount, I think it's equivalent to saying you are not morally equal. You are not the moral equal of somebody whose time actually has value.

                                                      If we were to say, incarcerate somebody, and somebody was incarcerated and they were actually documented, and somebody else were saying, "You're never going to be free," you're saying whatever it is, it's wrong. It's a permanent condition, it can't be rehabilitated, your debt to society can never be paid.

                                                      All kinds of [inaudible 00:35:02] becomes manifest. Imagine if your time in college was treated similarly. You could take course after course, semester after semester, and you never receive a degree. In some ways it sounds ideal. I'd like that to happen. It's costly and it would be paralyzing to you if that happened, if none of those things added up to an actual degree from Swarthmore or elsewhere.

                                                      Let's just say you were attending college, you were just sitting in on classes hoping that you could say that you had the equivalent to a degree, but everyday you were afraid that somebody was going to discover this, you were going to be incarcerated or ripped away from your community or love ones. When we move away from a system that recognizes the value of people's time, [inaudible 00:35:57] people's time, we're degrading a really important principle.

                                                      It's a principle on which a lot of our citizenship [inaudible 00:36:03] rests. I think it's corrosive. It's not just corrosive for immigrants. Lots of us are now living in a situation in which we think something of ours has been corroded as well by virtue of the fact that people cannot get citizenship.

                                                      I don't think this threat, I think it's a threat, I think it's a real threat to our democracy, I don't think the threat's going to vanish, even if we are able to vanquish the very evident threats that are posed by the Trump administration or congressional Republicans, to whom we've laid some of this at their feet. They might seem right now to be the biggest most important, most present, imminent threat to our nation's citizenship tradition, but underneath those pretty recent developments, maybe not congressional Republicans, they've been around for a while, but underneath this Trump revolution, there's a more diffuse, but deeply, deeply entrenched change to how we assign moral worth and whose moral worth we're going to recognize in this country. Until we have time to put those developments, I don't think we can expect to return ourselves to a state that seeks to actually enfranchise innocent citizens.

                                                      That's everything I've thought since I graduated. Like I said, I'm happy to talk political theory or immigration, answer questions. Some questions about sanctuary, if you guys are interested in that, but anything you guys want to talk about, it's totally fair game.


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