June 1, 2006

June 1, 2006 | Commentary on Immigration

'E pluribus whatever' hardly a unifying national motto

Last year, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution congratulating the West Oahu baseball team for winning the 2005 Little League World Series. Those young men were an American success story because they never gave up. They scored three late runs to tie the championship game in regulation and then won it in extra innings.

But if an upcoming Senate measure becomes law, future Hawaiian teams may celebrate championships as members of the international squad instead of as Americans.

Lawmakers will vote as early as next week on the measure, which would permit the creation of an exclusively race-based government of ''native'' Hawaiians to exercise sovereignty over native Hawaiians living anywhere in the United States. This government would be treated as a separate but dependent nation, just as many Indian tribes are. It also would have the right to exempt itself from any parts of the Constitution it didn't agree with.

This proposal has been shot down before, but it's proved to be like the vampire who won't die in a bad movie. No matter how many times opponents think they've killed it, it keeps coming back.

In a paper last fall, two Heritage Foundation legal scholars outlined perhaps the best reason to oppose allowing supposed Hawaiian natives to form a government: ''There are no 'native' Hawaiians living apart from other Americans,'' former Attorney General Edwin Meese and Todd Gaziano wrote. ''Hawaiians, whether they have pure, part, or no 'aboriginal blood,' all live in the same neighborhoods, go to the same schools and churches and participate in the same community life.''

In other words, they're Americans, in the truest sense of the word.

Right now, they live in the melting pot that brings people of many different backgrounds together as a united people. And there's no reason to change that. In fact, any time lawmakers consider passing a law, they ought to ask, ''Will this unite us or divide us?'' Here, the answer is clear. It would drive a stake between Americans, including many who've been friends and neighbors for decades.

In addition to being divisive, the measure is also unconstitutional.

No government organized under the U.S. Constitution may create another government that is exempted from parts of the Constitution. Congress is simply not allowed to create new nations, new governments or new tribes and leave them free from their constitutional responsibilities. We all enjoy the many benefits of the Constitution because we all agree to be bound by it in its entirety, even if we occasionally disagree with parts of it.

Imagine if Congress did allow native Hawaiians to discriminate on the basis of race. That would clearly violate the 14th Amendment, drafted specifically to ensure that all residents of a state enjoy identical citizenship privileges. Whether you are a ''native Hawaiian'' with direct blood ties to the former monarchy or someone who moved to Hawaii last week, you're entitled to equal protection as a Hawaiian and as an American.

In 1959, the people of Hawaii voted overwhelmingly to join the United States. They understood they were voting to become full citizens, committing themselves to protect and defend the Constitution and to build our country side by side with Americans in the 49 other states.

It's ironic that even as the U.S. Senate is proposing to offer amnesty to millions of illegal aliens so they can supposedly integrate into American society, it may also create a new government that would allow millions of native-born Americans to segregate themselves from American society.

Before voting, lawmakers ought to step back and ask themselves: Am I upholding the Constitution? Am I maintaining our traditional policy of E pluribus unum? Nothing less than a ''yes'' in both cases is acceptable.

Edwin Feulner is president of The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org), a Washington-based public policy research institute and co-author of the new book Getting America Right.

About the Author

Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D. Founder, Chairman of the Asian Studies Center, and Chung Ju-yung Fellow
Founder's Office

First Appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times