Thursday, June 14, 2007

Send us your poor tired huddled LEGAL masses

I am the son of an immigrant, and the grandson of immigrants. Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, my mother came to America with her parents in 1960, at 8 years of age. Her parents were both Canadian, and while they both loved their adopted country, both were still Canadian citizens when they died, and both are buried back in Toronto.

My father, on the other hand, was born in America, the son of a mother from Wales who came here as a war bride in 1945, and a father who was born in America but conceived in Poland, the last of 10 children in a family that fled oppression in Poland in 1913.

Compared to some other folks I know whose families have been here since the 1800’s, I’m not that far removed from my immigrant roots. That said, I think it’s safe for me to sound off on immigration.

I have nothing against legal immigration. I perfectly understand the need and desire of people to come to America to build a better life for their families. Many of our immigrants come here from places with poor living conditions, civil war, wanton violence, oppression and corruption, and negligible healthcare. So hey, if you want to come here and start over, that’s great. But there’s gonna be some strings attached.

Ask. Yeah, ask if it’s okay. Apply for a visa. Get a green card. Register. Don’t sneak in here like a criminal. Don’t live under the radar, working under the table, not paying any taxes. If you want to live like an American, pay taxes like an American. Giving an inordinate amount of your hard-earned wages back to the government so they can waste it on $400.00 toilet seats is what makes our country great.

Try to assimilate into American culture. Learn the language. Like it or not, everyone, America is an English-speaking nation, and has been for the past 231 years. While I agree that more Americans should be multilingual and that it would certainly make your assimilation into our culture easier if more of us could communicate with you, don’t expect us to speak your language simply because you refuse to learn ours. I’m not saying to give up all semblance of the culture you grew up in; I celebrate aspects of my ancestral culture now and again, but I don’t live it every day. Don’t expect the United States to make Spanish our official second language just because half the country of Mexico has decided to come here looking for jobs. You could just as easily have emigrated to Spain; they have a vibrant economy too, and you already speak the language.

Don’t just expect to be handed American citizenship. Study a little, learn about the country, and pass the test. And when you do, I will proudly throw my arm around your shoulder and congratulate you as a fellow American citizen. My mom got her citizenship in 1993. Her only child was a US Army veteran, her husband was at the time still an officer in the US Navy, and she had spent the past 33 of her 41years living as an American, and she still had to be interviewed and pass a test before she could become a full citizen.

Perhaps we should make it a bit easier to become a citizen once you get here? I can see maybe dropping the time requirement to 3 years instead of 5 to apply for citizenship, but the rest of the criteria sound rational to me. These are the criteria, taken from

•you have lived in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least five years (with exceptions for refugees, people who get their green card through political asylum, spouses of U.S. citizens, and U.S. military personnel)
•you have been physically present in the United States for at least half of the last five years
•you have lived in the district or state where you are filing your application for at least three months
•you have not spent more than a year outside the United States
•you have not made your primary home in another country
•you are at least 18 years old
•you have good moral character
•you are able to speak, read, and write in English
•you are able to pass a test covering U.S. history and government, and
•you are willing to swear that you believe in the principles of the U.S. Constitution and will be loyal to the United States

Serving in the US military does not grant you automatic citizenship. I think that should change. If you serve in our military, especially right now during times of war, you should be granted your citizenship automatically. People who are willing to fight for this country have proven themselves as far as I’m concerned. And hey, it might actually boost recruiting numbers a bit. Serve at least 2 years and get citizenship. That sounds good.

However, there’s always going to be people who want to come in illegally. When found, a hearing should be done to determine if they should be deported. There could be legitimate mitigating circumstances as to why this person had cause to fear authorities. But if you have no good reason for being here illegally, don’t let the doorknob hit you on the way out. And don’t expect to just apply to come back in; if you came here illegally, and we catch you, you’re banned. And I guarantee that instead of a fence along our borders, if we started sowing landmines and started shooting at people sneaking in, they’d take us a hell of a lot more seriously. Like I said, ask us if you can come over. Otherwise, you risk losing a leg or maybe more.
Yes, this sounds cold & harsh. I know I sound like a terrible person. But it’s also terrible to just let every swingin’ Richard cross into our borders at will. Lax, open immigration is why we have illegals sucking up our tax dollars, using up healthcare that causes my insurance rates to go up, and in some cases receiving scholarship grants that should go to legal immigrants and citizens.

Am I against illegal, undocumented immigration to my country? Absolutely. Am I in favor of legal, documented immigration? You bet. I welcome you with open arms and I’ll even help you study for your citizenship test the way I helped my mother study for hers. Down the line, we all came here from somewhere else, except for the native Americans that we stole this country from, but that’s a blog for a different time.

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