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The Rights of Aliens

One way of telling the story of American culture and politics in the second half of the 20th century is to present it as a revolt against the group of white Anglo-Saxon Protestant males who dominated the country from the time of William Bradford to that of Dwight David Eisenhower.  This narrative helps to explain how the federal courts began to implement new constitutional interpretations that furthered secularization, democratization, desegregation, and redistribution of political power.  Similar developments followed in Congress and state legislatures, particularly when the Democratic Party, whose base has historically consisted of religious and ethnic groups who sought to displace the formerly hegemonic WASP establishment, was dominant.  Most Americans are familiar with the constitutional and legal developments of the late 20th and early 21st century involving criminal procedure, race, religion, and abortion, among other issues; until recently, however, few (outside of Chronicles) understood that a similar cultural revolution was changing the way that the country treats immigration and naturalization.

These matters have suddenly gained attention because at least some of the September 11th hijackers (all foreign nationals) had been issued visas by the U.S. government, and, during the law-enforcement sweep that followed the terrorist attacks, other foreign nationals were incarcerated and detained under criminal...

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