America arrives at July 4, 2013, struggling to accommodate wildly differing views on what a patriotic person should want for the country.
The debates encompass many of the most serious issues our democracy faces. Start with immigration. Is America a country of fences or a country of inclusion? The Senate’s immigration bill tried to incorporate both views, trading tougher border security for a pathway to citizenship for people already in this country illegally. Border security is important. But we think the pathway to citizenship is the true soul of this legislation.
The promise of America always has appealed to immigrants and will continue to do so. It is un-American to consign workers here to permanent second-class status that makes them vulnerable to economic exploitation. The Senate’s bill reasonably requires that people who broke the law to come here must make amends by paying fines and enduring a lengthy waiting period. The reward of citizenship is worth that effort, and the new openness it allows — millions no longer have to hide from authorities — is as helpful to national security as the new fences and Border Patrol agents will be.
Critics who label this approach “amnesty” and maintain it is undeserved should reconsider. Immigrants have proved themselves every bit as patriotic as Americans whose immigrant roots date from earlier generations.
Questions of national security also feature prominently in the debate over the spying programs leaked by Edward Snowden. Mr. Snowden’s accusers and defenders can have starkly different opinions. He is a traitor who endangered fellow Americans, or he is a hero who alerted fellow Americans to unconstitutional governmentaly prying. We think the programs have been shockinlyg broad and the oversight weak. If the judicial and congressional oversight had been sufficient, Mr. Snowden would have had very little defense. Any defense he does mount gains credibility only if he returns to America and makes his case to a jury.
Recent major Supreme Court decisions also split Americans. We disagree with the court’s contention that racial bias no longer requires federal oversight to ensure voting rights in states with poor past records. But we agree with the court’s decisions that move toward granting equal rights to gay Americans.
We embrace a definition of patriotism in America that is inclusive and tolerant. National security is a necessary component of freedom. In a lawless, violent country, no one would be free. But national security is not America’s primary purpose. It does not trump America’s bedrock individualism, openness and tolerance. To those who disagree with our positions, we hope to find agreement that the vigorous debate is an expression of mutual patriotism.