Big City Newspaper Runs Op-ed Questioning Why “Habitual Drunkenness” Should Be a Disqualification for Citizenship



The headline in the Philadelphia Inquirer’s opinion page stopped me in my tracks. ‘Habitual drunkenness’ is not a reason to deny someone like me U.S. citizenship, it read. I checked again to make sure that I was actually looking at the most important newspaper in the nation’s sixth largest city, and had not accidently (drunkenly) stumbled over to The Onion’s website.

No, I was still on the Inquirer’s site, and the opinion column was not written by someone who had downed a few too many at a local tavern (the bars are all closed due to COVID, in any event) and wandered into paper’s building. It was authored by one Abraham Gutman, a staff editorial writer whom the paper (presumably) pays to pen sober commentary on important issues.

Gutman has lived in the United States for all of nine years and is going through the process of becoming a citizen and preparing for the citizenship test, which he describes as, “expensive, discriminatory and just got much harder to pass thanks to Donald Trump.” (Apparently newspaper editors can’t handle high school civics questions – but cheer up, Mr. Gutman, at least there’s no math on the test.) But while he was cramming for the exam, one question “caught me off guard,” he says: Have you EVER been a habitual drunkard?

“I found the line of questioning on drug and alcohol use, and the entire concept of a medical checkup, off-putting,” he writes. “It’s time to delete questions about drug and alcohol use on immigration applications.” Because, why wouldn’t we want to make citizens out of foreign drug addicts and alcoholics? Don’t we want to be inclusive?

Substance abuse is a disease (though at some point in the process it involved personal choice), and we should not make light of it, or lack compassion for those who struggle with addiction. But that does not mean that when a nation considers people for citizenship that it should not take into account moral character, including an expectation that the applicant is likely to be habitually productive and habitually sober.

More than anything, Gutman’s column describing assessments of moral character in considering citizenship applications to be “archaic,” and the fact that these opinions are given space on the pages of a major U.S. daily newspaper, speaks volumes about elitist contempt for the nation and the core values that made it great. It is indicative of why so many of our elite are for what amounts to open borders.

Gutman never tells us how he answered the question about whether he is a “habitual drunkard.” But perhaps he was inspired by the scene in the 1942 classic film, Casablanca (set, appropriately, in a bar), in which Major Strasser, a Nazi officer, interrogates Rick Blaine the American nightclub owner (played by Humphrey Bogart) in the presence of Captain Renault, the obedient Vichy French prefect:

Major Strasser: What is your nationality?

Rick Blaine: I’m a drunkard.

Captain Renault: That makes Rick a citizen of the world.

Life imitates art.

About Author

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Ira joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1986 with experience as a journalist, professor of journalism, special assistant to Gov. Richard Lamm (Colorado), and press secretary of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. His columns have appeared in National Review, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and more. He is an experienced TV and radio commentator.

FAIR blogs can now be found on our main site at https://www.fairus.org/blog