As we celebrate the July 4th holiday weekend in the middle of an historic battle over immigration reform that may determine the face of America for a generation. it is worth thinking about what it means to be an American. Eric Liu, Bill Clinton's former speechwriter and policy advisor, whose parents were immigrants from China, has some ideas on this topic that deserve consideration.

According to a July 4 Huffington Post article: Eric Liu: Asians Could Be Templates For Seeing Nuances Of Race, Citizenship

Liu states:

"I reject the idea that to become American is to quote become white...There's got to be a way to be American that's just about being yourself, claiming this country but not trying to whitewash yourself...

After all, when I look at some of the selfish, fear-mongering, divisive, anti-immigrant activists seeking to end birthright citizenship, I see living proof that being born here doesn't necessarily make you a good citizen. And I know many non-citizens in America who, in the way they live and work and serve community and country, are many times better Americans than some of the entitled non-contributors who scream about 'anchor babies' subverting our way of life."

Liu's comments might just as well apply to the people who are so desperate to derail Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Who are the ones who understand better what America really means, the backward-looking anti-immigrant politicians who are trying to make it difficult or impossible for 11 million minority immigrants ever to become Americans, or those immigrants themselves, who even though they may have come without permission because they were shut out of our legal immigration system, want nothing more than the chance to become a full part of our society?

A good question to reflect on during this Independence Day weekend.

From a broader perspective, the National Journal reminds us that the battle over immigration reform is only one symptom of an America that is divided between blue states which are moving forward in the direction of openness, tolerance and respect for human rights, and red states which are moving backwards not only on immigration, but on other issues also involving the rights of people who do not conform to a narrow, white male dominated, evangelical image of America.

The NJ states (Red, Divided and Blue Fly This Independence Day, July 3):

"All of this reflects a political system losing its capacity to create common ground between between coalitions divided along economic, racial, generational and even religious lines. Some variation in state policy is healthy, but states are now diverging to an extent that threatens to undermine equal protection under the law."

Senate passage of CIR with small, but significant, bipartisan support may have been one exception, but S.744 seems set to meet with a hostile reception in a House dominated by red state Republicans beholden only to Tea Party voters in their gerrymandered districts.

Will a sharply divided America be able to come together on immigration reform? This could be a very tall order indeed.