Introduction: "Thy People Shall Be My People" Immigration and Citizenship in America

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The Bible tells the story of Naomi, who, despondent at the loss of her husband and two sons, sets out to return to her homeland. She advises Ruth, her foreign daughter-in-law, to return to her own family. But Ruth opts to remain with her mother-in-law and become an immigrant in the land of Judah, telling Naomi, "Whither thou goest, I will go, and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people and thy God my God."

The United States oath of allegiance, taken by new citizens, is animated by the same spirit. It begins: "I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen."

In July 2000, almost three dozen scholars, journalists, and others gathered at Colonel Robert McCormick's former Cantigny estate near Chicago to discuss whether the story of Ruth is, in a secular sense, still a model for America's civic incorporation of immigrants. When immigrants become citizens of the United States, are they joining a new people, or do they remain members of a transnational community who have merely changed location?

The event was part of the Cantigny Conference Series, a program of the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation. The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies organized the two-day conference, which consisted of four panels and a keynote address. The sessions began with formal remarks, followed by a lengthy exchange of views among conference participants. In offering both a summary of the conference's discussions as well as the formal papers presented by panelists, the Center for Immigration Studies seeks to present a comprehensive discussion of the process of becoming an American.

As comprehensive as the discussion may be, it is not exhaustive. The nature of American citizenship in an era of mass immigration and globalization is an issue central to our future as a nation and one which is only now beginning to attract attention. Much more research and public debate is needed on how we should address such issues as dual citizenship, citizenship education, or the integration of Mexican immigrants. The answers to these questions will determine what kind of republic our posterity will inherit.

Mark Krikorian
Executive Director, Center for Immigration Studies

CONFERENCE Participants

Charles Bahmueller, Center for Civic Education
Stephen Bates, Wilson Quarterly
Don Bragaw, American Forum for Global Education
Steven Camarota, Center for Immigration Studies
Joseph Carens, University of Toronto
Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune
Alice Cottingham, Fund for Immigrants and Refugees
George Elford, Education consultant
John Fonte, Hudson Institute
Martin Ford, Maryland Office for New Americans
Guillermo Garcia, USA Today
Gary Gerst, Midwest Coalition to Reform Immigration
Michael Gleba, Carthage Foundation
Manuel Garcia y Griego, University of Texas-Arlington
August Gribbon, Washington Times
Susan Gzesh, Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights
Michael Horowitz, Hudson Institute
Samuel P. Huntington, Harvard University
John Keeley, Center for Immigration Studies
Mark Krikorian, Center for Immigration Studies
Robert S. Leiken, Brookings Institute
Ira Mehlman, Federation for American Immigration Reform
Noah Pickus, Duke University
Robert Pickus, James Madison Foundation
James Pinkerton, Newsday
Stanley Renshon, City University of New York
Steve Sailer, Hudson Institute
Daryl Scott, University of Florida
Peter Skerry, Claremont McKenna College
Peter Spiro, Hofstra University
Stephen Steinlight, American Jewish Committee
Ron Unz, Wall Street Analytics
Karl Zinsmeister, American Enterprise Institute

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