“We don’t want terrorists obtaining green cards and citizenship through marriage.” That was the rationale behind Louisiana’s ban on issuing marriage licenses to foreign-born applicants who cannot produce birth certificates, according to the state legislator who sponsored the law. In reality, the ban, which took effect this year, does nothing to combat terrorism. Its effect has been to deny licenses to dozens of refugees, primarily from Southeast Asia, who have no way of obtaining birth certificates.
The law is no more than an expression of hostility toward immigrants and refugees, similar to the poisonous rhetoric that has been directed toward refugees of the civil war in Syria. It is echoed in the unnecessary bans on Shariah law passed by at least nine states out of fear that it might somehow override the U.S. and state constitutions, and in the hostility toward providing basic health care for undocumented immigrants.
In the closing days of the presidential campaign, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo of Seattle, chairman of the Committee on Migration of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote that Catholics “have a special responsibility to reject the hostility that dominates the public conversation about immigration today.” The Louisiana marriage license law, which panders to xenophobic voters, is now being challenged in court by a man who was born to Vietnamese parents in an Indonesian refugee camp and became a U.S. citizen at the age of 8. The law should be overturned or repealed, and the waste of time and money in enacting and defending the law should stand as a deterrent to similarly pointless legislation.