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Hidden Flags

By David Haldane

July 11, 2019


For us, it all came down to a tee shirt.

Ivy – my Filipino wife who became a US citizen in 2013 and now divides her time between Northern Mindanao and Southern California – wanted one bearing an American flag for the annual July 4th picnic and fireworks display during our visit to the USA. The problem was that none could be found.

“I can’t believe it,” she sighed, “last year they were everywhere!”

Eventually, migrating to another store, we were able to find one that, while not exactly a flag, was close enough to satisfy. And so, another American Independence Day passed with hamburgers, French fries, cotton candy and, yes, lots of lights in the sky.

But the experience was troubling; what’s the story, we wondered, with my native country and her adopted one? Part of the problem was that our paranoia had been fueled by a spate of recent news accounts; Nike, the renowned shoe company, had just decided to cancel the release of a planned flag-themed sneaker after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick complained that the colonial-era Betsy Ross flag it featured was reminiscent of a racist past. And despite President Trump’s vow to deliver a non-political patriotic speech at the nation’s forthcoming July 4th celebration at the Capital Mall, his critics were still crying foul.

The upshot, for me at least; an Independence Day celebration that was muted, at best.

Ironically, Ivy took it even harder. Though she retains her Philippine citizenship and loves the country of her birth, she also harbors a deep affection for America, which has afforded her a life and career that otherwise would probably have been impossible. Consequently, when it comes to the Fourth of July, my sweet wife is right out there in the front row waving her flag and cheering for the red, white and blue. Her unbridled enthusiasm, in fact, has sparked a kind of rebirth of my own.

Which brings us to another issue; immigration, seemingly at the forefront of what currently ails America. I am certainly not anti-immigrant; my mother was one, my wife is one and now I myself am one, albeit in another country. Being in that position, however, has provided a certain perspective. As a legal permanent resident of the Philippines, I am not allowed to personally own land, participate in political events or demonstrations, publicly criticize the government or, frankly, even annoy immigration officials at airports or other points of entry. I am not eligible to receive most public benefits. And to remain legal, I must register and pay an annual fee, keep the government apprised of my whereabouts and, obviously, obey Philippine laws. Failing to observe any of these requirements could result in my deportation.

I have no problem with any of this because; clearly, it is what countries do to protect their national identities. What I don’t understand, though, is why so many believe that America should be exempt from the same process. And yet that seems to be the position of several would-be future presidents who, among other things, have proposed decriminalizing illegal border crossings, both of the past and into the future. Already, in fact, several major American cities and my own home state of California have consistently refused to enforce federal immigration law. And California’s governor recently signed legislation providing free taxpayer-supported health care to young immigrants who enter the country illegally.

I couldn’t help but ponder these things as I watched my beautiful wife wave her flag and cheer for America during the recent Independence Day celebrations. Part of why she loves and appreciates the country so much, I believe, is because of the significant – and legal – efforts she made to get here. Neither of us would have it any other way. Nor, we believe, should anyone else.

(David Haldane, a former Los Angeles Times staff writer, is an award-winning American journalist, author and radio broadcaster who recently moved to Surigao City with his Filipino wife and their eight-year-old son. This column tells the unfolding story of that adventure.)



Originally Published in Mindanao Goldstar Daily


1 Comment

  1. Pete McKee says:

    Found it. On my screen, it’s a teeny, tiny line just above the block for entering my website.

    The flag thing has been developing for years, I believe. Back in the 90’s, I went looking for flags to place on the graves of veterans for Memorial Day. I finally found some at a Lowe’s hardware store. Other store managers told me there wasn’t enough market for them to stock them. Patriotic themed clothing was abundant though. Of course, that may have been that we lived in a military town.

    I’ve been seeing a growing anti immigrant sentiment since the 1980’s at least. It’s become superheated now with the advent of social media. Even before the current social media enabled frenzy, I encountered people who advocated extrajudicial action, including violence against immigrants. When I questioned it, they were quick to add, “Oh, not legal immigrants, just the illegals”. I asked how they could tell the difference. They couldn’t. I’ve seen people in gas stations and grocery stores get tight jawed and purple faced at the mere presence of a dark skinned person with a foreign accent. When we were living in the US, I was careful to exercise my 2nd amendment rights in case I needed to defend my non-white, immigrant family from those folks.

    Some of my recent internet exchanges have been with folks claiming that illegal immigrants are sucking up government benefits, or that illegal immigrants have no rights in the US. A quick google search dispelled the first. Illegal immigrants are not eligible for most, if any federal, tax funded benefits. Any they do receive are from the state and local governments. The second allegation got me to re-read the Constitution with an eye on immigration. I was struck by how often the word persons was used rather than citizen. The 14th amendment, in particular, in section 1, after defining who is a citizen, says ….. “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any PERSON of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any PERSON within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (emphasis mine). There is a good chance that our current actions at the border are in violation of that.

    I gather from some of your writings that, politically, you have a libertarian lean. If so, I suspect you know that any time a government bans something, a lucrative black market springs up to fill the demand. I could support a modernized version of the old braceros program. Those folks could come and go as they wished. They did not have to fear deportation, so long as they obeyed the law. They did not need to go underground or associate with criminal elements in order to obtain fake documents. At present, I’m not aware of any way, outside of marriage to a citizen, or claiming asylum , a working class person can legally immigrate to the US.

    It’s a tad early here for that wine, but I hope you have your corkscrew handy.

    Take care,