When I recite the pledge of allegiance I do it barely above a whisper because I find comfort in hearing the person next to me, as well as inspiration from the choral voice of all declarers. And so it was on Dec. 6 as I stood in a packed auditorium at the University of Delaware led by Federal District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika.
Joining me were 220 new citizens of the United States, from 56 countries, and double that number of family and well-wishers. As each country of origin was announced alphabetically, their citizens stood in recognition one last time before renouncing and abjuring all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty.
It merits mention that each also swore to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against all enemies, bear arms on behalf of the United States, perform non-combatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States and perform work of national importance under civil direction when required by law. This strikes a familiar note for those of us who were eligible for being drafted into the Armed Services once upon a time.
The League of Women Voters was in prominent attendance, eager to register new citizens for eligibility to participate in American democracy.
I inwardly smiled at the misguided opinions of “media talking heads” that insult us with every newscast of how these new citizens I walked among were Democrats all. Indeed not! Most wore the cloth of working folks, many with hands to prove it. All had followed a process, albeit a long, grueling and expensive one, that had taken years and many interactions with the Department of Homeland Security to complete.
But here they were, at last, with spouses and children, mortgages and debt, medical histories, jobs, cars and other assets and, of course, tax liabilities: the whole kit and caboodle of challenges to daily living in America. As Sens. Coons and Carper and Rep. Rochester know well, some of these people will be asking for their help via the aortic vein of reelection: constituent services.
Which brings me to my immigration problem.
I hope you share my shame at living in a country where one party exploits a child’s death while in the custody of Customs & Border Protection and another party exploits a citizen’s death at the hands of a felon who has entered the country without inspection. Death is a personal tragedy and it demands the decency of private healing. In contrast, advertisers thrill in death and the lucre of public visibility.
There is no one solution to those seeking entry into the United States, whether by an illegal crossing or as a tourist with no intention of leaving. Give Trump money for his wall. Give Schumer and Pelosi as many border patrol agents and high-tech security as they want. To say “that does not solve the problem” does not solve the problem. Give each what they want, not because they will work or be effective but simply because they will allow us to move to a nobler plateau of civic debate from which we can get about the business of doing what America does best: solve the problem.
And from what I witnessed on Dec. 6, with literally 700 citizens and non-citizens alike rising in unison to pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, making the naturalization process more expedient and public could at no cost bend America’s spirit to bipartisanship for this singular issue.