Is Elizabeth Warren of Native American ancestry – and does it matter

Someone asked this question on Quora:

Q: Why is Elizabeth Warren being criticised, either you have or don’t have native American blood, she does?

I read somewhere that the average American has 0.18% Native American ancestry. That means 1/555 – in other words one ancestor 9 generations back. People with that amount are unlikely to have any stories passed down, or any awareness that they have any native American blood.

The report on EW’s ancestry notes that she has between 1/64th and 1/1024th Native American ancestry. At the highest part of the range, that is one ancestor 6 generations back. More than the average, but not a lot.

My daughter has about that much – all of it from her mother’s side, since I am pure Scandinavian – living in Denmark for at least 8 generations. Not culturally significant – most of my ex-wife’s family are more apt to note that they have three lines going back to two people on the Mayflower. One line that now mostly lives in the Texas panhandle came from South Carolina, via Arkansas and Oklahoma around the time of the “Trail of Tears”. No recorded proven Native American interbreeding. But of course we speculate that there was some Cherokee connection. The idea gave us an incentive to feel connected to the historic sufferings of the Cherokee and by extension other native tribes, as we read “The Little House on the Prairie” at bedtime over the years. But of course, we are not Indians.

Elizabeth Warren says her father’s family rejected her mother, because she “looked like an Indian with her high cheekbones”, so the idea of Native American ancestry – which at the time was unverifiable – was a personal story of having to fight racial discrimination. And about privileged white men not believing a woman.

So to this Dane, the premise of your question is so simplistic that “it is not even wrong”.

Should the 2020 U.S. Census ask about your citizenship?

In a sane world, absolutely. It is valuable for all sorts of government planning to know as many dimensions as possible about the population you serve. But then, the USA is not exactly a sane place, when it comes to issues that relate in some way to immigration.

In a sane world, the population of “undocumented immigrants” – also known as “illegal aliens” would be miniscule. We would enforce our borders, and we would make it very hard for “undocumented” people to find work by imposing severe penalties on those who illegally employ them. But important industries like to employ “illegals”, because you do not have to pay them a normal or a living wage, and if they start to demand decent pay and working conditions, you can call the immigration police and have them deported. Problem solved. So these industries have influenced Federal and State legislatures to be lenient to illegal employers. And now we have 13 million “illegals” and if they were to leave (voluntarily or otherwise) farmers, slaughterhouses and several other industries would be in deep trouble.

In California, we have a large “undocumented” population. We need to count them and include them in our population statistics in order to fairly allocate things like school funding and the number of seats in the Federal House of Representatives. And that is precisely why Republicans do not want to count them. They want to citizenship question added to the Census because it will make the “undocumented” afraid to participate in the Census.

In theory, the rules for the Census should alleviate that fear. The Census data is confidential, and individual records are not to be shared with the public or other government branches. But when the head of the Census department is a Republican, how much do you trust that that confidentiality will hold?

So as a California Democrat, I have to agree with our state officals that this question should not be asked in the 2020 Census.

Immigration is a big tangle of interacting difficult problems made worse by bungling politicians over decades. Almost every suggestion you hear that sounds simple is counterproductive.

One of these days, I will write a long blog post about what I think could be done to start making things better, but not this week.

Should the United States require a national immigration status identity card and require it be carried at all times by all people living in the United States and produced on the demand of a law enforcement official?

“Ausweis, Bittle” (Papers, please.)

The idea is abhorrent to most Americans, but honestly, it would make a lot of sense. Most middle class Americans carry their government issued photo ID – also known as their driver license – with them anyway, and there are in fact places in America where you need it to ride on a city bus (such as a route in Denver that crosses through a Federal office building complex). In the absence of such a document, first level screening turns into ethnic profiling, which is much worse.