Ambivalent borders

Ambivalent borderlines

Russ Davis


Last month, two of The Post reporters sparred about voting pamphlets being offered in languages other than English. Let me just say there are some stories in our newspaper I read and think about for long lengths afterward; other stories, I just read.

I confess that the Fightin’ Words was not on my mind the moment before my man Ron brought it up to me.

With the latest Puyallup Post open in front of him, Ron leaned in and said, “Let me ask you something about this ‘Fightin’ Words’ here.” He told me about his daughter, who was an election worker at one point; they both wondered, “How can you even be a citizen if you can’t speak English?”

This was actually on my mind when I first read the Fightin’ Words, but they resurfaced when Ron said those words. I told him the blatant truth, which was, “I don’t know.”

My man Mitch knew. (What? I can have two “my mans.”) He said that one source of the issue is refugees. As it turns out, refugees who apply for citizenship get more lenient rules than other resident aliens. “They’re allowed to bring interpreters until their naturalization,” he said.

I wasn’t sure if I totally believed this, but Mitch had first-hand experience. He spent two months in Miami, which is filled with refugees primarily from Cuba, among other countries. These refugees, he said, are frank about some of the amenities they’re offered, the biggest of which is the allowance of interpreters for official government functions.

Mitch makes a point, but I should add that it’s not just refugees. When an immigrant–––legal or illegal–––gives birth on American soil, that child automatically becomes a United States citizen, even if neither parent is.

Let me just state upfront that these children are not, on the outset, guilty of any crime. You don’t decide which family you were born into or whether or not you come out of the womb with U.S. citizenship. But some of these children grow up without going to American schools, or associating with people outside their ethnic community. As such, when they reach the age of 18, they either don’t know about voting, or they don’t know how to vote in the tongue of the land.

Of course, then again, some of these people may not even be citizens, which is the biggest anomaly of all. Ron’s daughter, when she worked election polls, said that there was no need to prove citizenship when voting–––“All you had to do was check the box marked ‘U.S. Citizen.’”

This frustrated him. “When you go to apply for a passport, which is the biggest sign of someone’s nationality, you have to produce paperwork proving you’re a citizen of the United States,” he said. This paperwork can include a birth certificate or a certificate of naturalization, among other documents. “Why is it that you, when you go to vote, all you have to do is check a box?”

Beats me.

Don’t read me wrong. I’m in total support of immigration. My own mother is an immigrant.

My favorite professor (Chris Vanneson, a faithful Post reader–––here’s a shout-out to you) is an immigrant. Some of the greatest contributors to American society–––from scientists to authors to entertainers to businessmen–––are and have been immigrants. In that respect, I can cite Albert Einstein, Madeleine Albright and David Ho as examples. We need immigration to sew a vibrant fabric on the tapestry that is American culture.

But we also need law, order, and assimilation. Immigrants should be correctly documented, with their presence within the bounds of the law. Different cultures can and should be celebrated, but if an immigrant is so proud of his native culture to the point where he says, “Things are so much better in my homeland,” my first reaction is going to be, “Well, then why are you in America?”

Ron and Mitch did a good job in bringing up the questions that may have not been addressed in the last issue of our Post. And, truth be told, there’s a lot to consider in the asking questions like, “Should voter pamphlets be offered in separate languages.” In fact, so much so, that I hope you’ll excuse me as I leave my desk to grab my ibuprofen.



The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost

Ambivalent borders

by Russ Davis time to read: 3 min