American Citizenship: A Privilege, Not a Right

We Must Close Loopholes That Will Allow Felons to Legalize

By Senator John Cornyn Posted in | Comments (25) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

“We have enough trouble policing our own citizenry. Legalizing convicted felons, who have already shown disdain for our justice system, simply exacerbates the problem.”

As the Senate debates the compromise immigration bill this week, an important question is before my colleagues: Whether or not Congress should permanently bar from the United States and from receiving any immigration benefits, the following categories of individuals: members of terrorist organizations, violent gang members, sex offenders, repeat drunk drivers, and those convicted of felony identity theft.

The answer to that question would appear to be simple – yes, they should be barred.

It’s for this reason that I hoped to find strong bipartisan support for an amendment with a very simple premise – that we ought not to make citizens out of violent or aggravated felons. My amendment would close several gaping loopholes in the current bill to that effect.

Read on . . .

Remarkably, a number of my Democrat colleagues, and I might add, the New York Times editorial board, have vigorously objected. In fact, as the Associated Press reports this evening, the vote on my amendment, which is scheduled to take place Wednesday morning, is expected to be quite close. I for one find that to be astonishing.

The primary objections being put forward by some of my Democrat colleagues, with the notable exception of Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE), is that this amendment is too harsh – that it would, as the Chicago Tribune reports today, “punish individuals with clean records whose only encounters with law enforcement are those related to their status as illegal immigrants.”

It’s important to examine this objection in close detail. First, let’s look at just one of the many crimes that might relate directly to their “status as illegal immigrants.” Among those who would be barred from legalization, and ultimately U.S. citizenship, under my amendment are those who have previously been investigated, indicted and convicted by a judge or jury of felony identity theft. Remarkably, this was one of the provisions that the New York Times editorial similarly took issue with when the paper accused me yesterday of trying to sabotage the bill “by attacking one of its pillars.” In response to their attacks, I have posted a “fact check sheet” on my website.

Apparently, the New York Times would have the American people believe that such offenses (serious felonies under current U.S. Law), are neither dangerous nor serious. They would have you believe that these are victimless crimes. Unfortunately, almost 9 million American citizens could tell you just how victimless identity theft is. In a 2006 report, Javelin Strategies, working with the Better Business Bureau released a survey showing that for the 8.9 million victims that year, identity fraud had cost a combined $56.6 billion. On average identity fraud cost each victim $6,383.

Identity Fraud is a serious crime which we cannot reward with legalization, and ultimately U.S. citizenship. It would be hard to argue the justice of a system in which a citizen is left to cover the costs of the crime, while the perpetrator can buy, for less than the cost to the victim, citizenship in the United States.

The New York Times was not wrong, however, when it reported I wanted to expand “the universe of offenses that make someone ineligible for legalization.” The current immigration bill, without this amendment, makes those convicted of rape, assault, terrorism, and theft potentially eligible for legalization. We have enough trouble policing our own citizenry. Legalizing convicted felons, who have already shown disdain for our justice system, simply exacerbates the problem.

I still believe that being an American citizen is a privilege, and that anyone who wants to be a part of our nation must show that they respect its laws and its people. I hope my colleagues in the Senate will see how costly these crimes are, and how important it is that we keep these criminals out of our country when they vote on my amendment Wednesday morning.

The Party of FirstsComments (5) »
American Citizenship: A Privilege, Not a Right 25 Comments (0 topical, 25 editorial, 0 hidden) Post a comment »

Thanks for contributing Senator.

I agree that citizenship is rapidly becoming a right, and that is wrong. If we have no standards for who can become an American, the value of being an American declines for everyone.

We have enough problems of our own to be able to accept the criminals of other countries. There are too many qualified motivated people that want to come to the U.S. and contribute positively to our country.

The big push-back on this amnesty(immigration) bill is the lack of prior enforcement. How do we get any assurance that Lucy won't pull the football away again? We are tired of getting duped by Washington.

Let's pass a new bill to enforce the border if we have to or just enforce what we have. Once our border is secure I am sure Americans are willing to discuss additional measures.

We must quit bailing out the boat for a minute and try plugging the leak. It works better.

Just because you have the right, doesn't mean you should.

Thank you, Senator.

We all see ways to make this bill better but we can't lose focus of the primary purpose of this bill: Amnesty for all.

From the illegal aliens who steal Social Security numbers, provide forged work documents, abscond payroll taxes to the criminal underground whose existence is solely to smuggle more law-breakers in and provide them with the tools to escape punishment and detection to the employers who willingly look the other way, depress the local wages, overload hospitals with their workers and dependents to the local municipalities who spitefully refuse to expel the criminal who is here illegally--amnesty for all. Justice for none while the rule of law is diluted beyond parody.

The magnitude of this amnesty is beyond a few million persons--that is the true shame and disgrace.

Any thing that would actually make this bill better--a true solution to the "problem" is a poison pill upon the true intentions of the backers. They have no interest in actual, true enforcement. They broker no talk of real verification. They mock any notion of slowing the avalanche crushing down upon those unlucky few who lack white-collar skills or respect for the law.

The sucker follows the law, the criminal demands amnesty.

Long before this immigration battle began, it was lost for the American people. Big Business and Elites want illegal labor. Both political parties belong to Big Business and Elites.The rest of us have no business getting involved. If we don't like it, we should emigrate elswhere.

Most Americans usually express a desire for less legal immigration, yet the pending bill would actually increase it.

Giuliani had one of the most insulting lines of the night last night when he said "We shouldn't be having a debate about legal immigration." What??? Why not, especially in light of how the preferred solution to illegal immigration favored by the elites you mention is to increase legal immigration to such a point that it pretty much allows in all those who would otherwise try to come illegally?

One of the bad things about the focus on illegal immigration is that it makes a much-needed debate out legal immigration harder to come by.

The eyes of RedState are on (of all places) CNN.

But anyway, my 2-cents. I applaud your work against the bill, and mainly would just say that the huge behemoth is so chock-full of little land-mines and Democrat-serving jewels that it is irredeemably bad and should be defeated no matter what amendments get put in.

It's war -- so when can we start shooting back at the enemy Democrats?

will you please punch both of my Senators (Arizona) in the nose for me?

And please don't drink the water in DC.
CongressCritter™: Never have so few felt like they were owed so much by so many for so little.

You make me proud to be a Texan. No matter what gets added to this disaster of a bill, I hope you (and Ms. Hutchison) end up voting against it. I'm all for your amendment, but withot serious verifiable enforcement, this bill is such a disaster that I hope and pray that it fails.

sell out of America and I want you to do what you can to kill this bill however barring that, your amendment is common sense and I would hope that you call all of your colleagues on their anti-Americanism when they don't vote for this amendment. There is something intrinsically bizarre about any member of the Senate who would fight to not include your amendment.

I hope you give that amendment a good fight.

It is always nice to have someone remind us United States citizenship is a privilege. Since I fear the judiciary in the near future will agree with some of your fellow legislators (and, it seems, the White House) and decide that citizenship is a right, it is nice to know there will be voices of reason to counter that absurdity. The fact you even have to offer such an amendment, as needed as it is, speaks volumes about how cancerous the entitlement mindset can be to our society. The fact you are there to offer it is a comfort nonetheless.

I accept that immigration enforcement falls upon the executive branch and the various departments that congress can;t force into action. But perhaps the question that I have held for many years is why spin our wheels with new legislation that will undoubtedly fall upon deaf ears within ICE and the remaining executive branch.

There is no way in the foreseeable future that I would abandon the Republican party but when will we have the backbone to stand-up, call for enforcement upon the American employers that hire illegal workers. When will the call be made that the $20bn being sent to Mexico should remain in OUR economy. Yes, I understand that in removing that money will likely result in a civil war; one which we will have to intervene in, but at what cost are we going to pay in the long run.

Living in Arizona, dealing with many Mexican nationals in my daily business I see one singular fact: they are here for the money, NOTHING ELSE. Rightly so, businesses cater to these people that can not speak english and have no plan on learning: My son goes to school with other students that are not required to learn english because the parents do not support it: that in reality, they don;t want to be US citizens, just receive the benefits.

I understand that you are but one man in a sea of 100 but what will it take for the Washington legislators to accept the will of the people. It is not legislation, it is enforcement. Unfortunately, a dark cloud settled over the nation with the enactment of the 17th Amendment and to this day there seems to be an apathy among those that must fight for my states rights, and sadly, my representation lacks the desire to keep the illegals from invading my state.

It's a sad event that I must hold this animosity towards my government, but alas it does indeed appear that most in DC desire to fiddle as Rome burns.

Alas though, I respect what you are trying to do and your convictions as we likely hold similar national goals.


It's not surprising the NY Times and their ilk feel your amendments are "too harsh". Had our government enforced the immigration laws on the books to begin with, we wouldn't be debating something as illogical as this?

These aliens are in an illegal state because our government failed to enforce current laws. I fail to see how anything will change with the passage of this bill. Maybe if serious enforcement started in earnest, I might see a glimmer of hope and feel the partisans in DC really are serious about immigration and doing something about all the illegals now permeating our society like mold in a shower stall.

If this bill passes, after the back slapping and politicking is over, this country will continue on for another 10 or 20 years and then pass another shamnesty bill.

To summarize, I am against this bill - it covers too much in one big wrapped-up, over-stuffed enchilada that will start spilling its contents as soon as we take a bite from it. This bill needs to be broken down into manageable chunks.

of a horrendous bill, if it passes. That NYT editorial is unbelievable, if not outright sickening. How any sane American can oppose what you are trying to pass simply boggles the mind. While I sincerely hope you oppose the overall immigration bill, at least this amendment helps make it less of a pooch.

that you think the massive shamnesty and immediate legal status that the illegal immigrants would get would be OK if we just excluded the criminal classes identified in your amendment? Perhaps I misunderstand you?

I believe that the majority opinion here is that until the government actually secures the border and implements workplace enforcement that we are not interested in talking about mass legalization (most of us call it amnesty). It is a matter of trust and most of us feel that on this issue that you all in the Federal Government deserve very little.

Enforce existing laws. This bill is unnecessary because it has almost zero new enforcement provisions. The fence, the expansion of the border patrol and the new detention beds are already authorized.

Thanks for posting though.

Dear Senator (my Senator) Cornyn,

I appreciate your position and I certainly agree that any sane person would vote to exclude those classes of individuals from US citizenship. However well intentioned and reasonable your amendment is, this is still trying to put lipstick on a pig. If your goal is to get an amendment through that will ultimately sink the bill, then by all means I hope you succeed.

The resentment of the citizenry to this incredibly ugly piece of legislation has been made clear by the writers before me here. Fundamentally, we do not trust the Federal government to actually implement any of the enforcement proivisions of this bill. In fact, based on history, we are all pretty sure that they won't be enforced.

This bill should be dismantled and the various provisions debated one at a time. I don't see any compromise in here, except for a compromise of sane American values and principles.

Good luck, sir and thank you for your tremendous service to the citizens of Texas.

I am a great admirer of your work in the Senate. Maybe you will have an even greater role to offer us some day. I hope your amendment succeeds and that the Senate does present a bill that will solve the problems associated with illegal immigration.

If this bill does not result in the end of sovereign America, as many are declaiming, then perhaps the vitriolic emotions that are now dividing our party will be assuaged.

John E.

After reading this post I am a little less in admiration. This suggests that the bill was designed as a poison bill for its hidden contents masquerading under the outrageous charge of "No Felon Left Behind." This residual effect of this bit of demagoguery upon other Republicans is not particularly helpful to the Republican coalition. Perhaps you will correct this my making it clear to all those that were outraged that this was only a crafty strategy to make them look like they are in favor of immigrating felons when that could not be farther from the truth.

John E.

That was a great line Sen. Cornyn. I believe Kennedy's passed and Cornyn's didn't. There is too much BS happening with all the horse trading going on to pay attention to the people's wishes. This is a big warning sign that the elected elite won't let the voters get in the way of their agendas.

To win the war on terror, we first have to win the war against spineless liberal appeasement at home.

I agree with you, Senator Cornyn, that we need to keep felons from obtaining citizenship. But I think that's missing the larger point. Why should anyone who comes here illegally be able to obtain citizenship? If citizenship is a privilege and not a right, as I believe that it is, then why should this privilege be given to those who had no respect for our laws when they came here in the first place?

Citizenship should only be given to those who follow legal processes to come into our country. If we must, we can talk about permanent legal residency for those who have come here illegally. Personally, I favor a period of temporary legal residency for them to prove that they will be productive and valuable members of our society; if they prove otherwise, then their legal residency should end and they should be deported. But I would even accept permanent legal residency. But citizenship? American citizenship is perhaps the most valuable "possession" in the world. Do we really want to reward illegal immigration with American citizenship? If we do, won't more illegal immigrants try to come here in the hopes that, twenty years down the road, they too will be given American citizenship?

I appreciate what you're doing, Senator, but it isn't enough. There should be no path to citizenship for those who did not respect our laws in coming here. There should be no amnesty without first securing the borders. And there should be no path to welfare and entitlement programs, because this path threatens to bankrupt the federal government and/or the American taxpayer. We expect this kind of fiasco from the Democrats; we expect more from Senate Republicans, and we hope that you'll deliver.

Nate Nelson
Reality Mugged Me

UNBELIEVEABLE. "No felon left behind" as Rush calls it.

This entire disaster of a bill MUST BE SCRAPPED.

Rush is talking about it now. Fox News story is here.
Donate to the Fred Thompson Campaign

To win the war on terror, we first have to win the war against spineless liberal appeasement at home.

as if we didn't know - I'm sure it's the same cast of characters who are behind the original abomination.

What he suggests is good but it misses the point all together. Granting citizenship to the illegals is NOT the answer. They aren't coming her to become Americans. They're coming to work. Give them work visas but don't make them citizens because they have no desire to assimilate into our culture. Aside from that, all this will do is create a huge new voting block for the Democrats. THAT is what we should be concerned about. As Rush says, conservatism will become irrelevant if that happens. We'll be so out numbered our views won't matter. To start solving the problem of illegals coming over here we must do away with the incentives. First, we need a constitutional amendment that says only children of citizens or legal residents are automatically citizens of the US. Secondly, we need a law preventing noncitizens from opening bank accounts, getting loans, and wiring money. Of course I'm not living in a dream world so I know none of this will happen but I do believe it would solve the problem.

See the vote tally here:

To sum up...
Coburn (R-OK), Not Voting
Craig (R-ID), Nay
Domenici (R-NM), Nay
Graham (R-SC), Nay
Hagel (R-NE), Nay
Kyl (R-AZ), Nay
Lugar (R-IN), Nay
Martinez (R-FL), Nay
McCain (R-AZ), Nay
Specter (R-PA), Nay
Voinovich (R-OH), Nay

If you are represented by any of these Honorable Senators, please express your displeasure (if in fact this vote displeases you) to them as they throw down the welcome mat to criminals!

Here are the Democrats that apparently haven't gone completely insane:
Baucus (D-MT), Yea
Conrad (D-ND), Yea
Dorgan (D-ND), Yea
Landrieu (D-LA), Yea
Nelson (D-FL), Yea
Nelson (D-NE), Yea
Rockefeller (D-WV), Yea
Tester (D-MT), Yea

...I must ask: With senators like Voinovich, who needs Sherrod Brown? If we were going to lose a senator, I wish DeWine had stayed and Voinovich had been replaced by Sherrod Brown.

Since I'm too depressed to talk about the Republican side any further, I bet the Kossacks and other nutroots folks are apoplectic over Sen. Landrieu's yea vote. They hate her just about as much as they hate Lieberman. And I bet they're positively livid that Tester, one of their freshmen, sided with the right. At least we're not the only ones who are furious.

Nate Nelson
Reality Mugged Me

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