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    Who Gets to Be American?

    challenge posed by Bruce Watson 68 days 17 hours 11 minutes ago

    Category: Politics
    Challenge Forum

    Who Gets to Be American?

    About a year ago, the posters started showing up in my neighborhood. Printed in red ink on a white background, they read “CHINGA LA MIGRA!,” and gave readers a number to call if they were having problems with immigration. The English language version was more polite -- it said “ICE-FREE ZONE” -- but the message was still clear: this was a safe area for immigrants.

    In the news, the message is different. We regularly see the President and members of his inner circle talking about the dangers of immigrants -- the drag on our social safety net, the threat of criminal gangs, and the alleged damage to our culture.

    In the last month or two, the rhetoric around immigration in our culture have been particularly ugly. But while child separations and the current attacks on legal immigrants that are being discussed by members of the Trump administration are extreme, anti-immigration bias is hardly new. America has had a strong vein of anti-immigration sentiment at least since the 1800s.

    At the heart of all of this lies a fundamental question -- and a major contradiction. The contradiction is the fact that the US economy is largely based on cheap, illegal labor. Those are the people who pick our grapes and build our homes, take care of our kids and clean our hotel rooms. Their illegal status makes it possible to underpay them, and many companies both rely on them and take brutal advantage of them. They are vital to our country, yet are not legally allowed to be here.

    As for the question, that’s your challenge…

    Challenge:

    What is it to be an American -- and who has the right to pursue citizenship? Does being American mean being born here? Being able to speak English? Having American born parents? Declaring allegiance to our country? How would you define citizenship, and what path -- if any -- would you make available to people who are looking to become a part of our country?

    Re: Who Gets to Be American?

    This is a great question and it is clear that we are all immigrants. The original people were the indians. The men who came from Europe and other countries were the ones who originally brought people here from other countries. We are all americans because we are part of this world. Being American does not define who you are as a person but rather your culture should define you. I enjoy spending time with people outside my culture because it is great to know their background, food, music clothing and other great things to know. It is difficult to say that one not born here in the US is an immigrant because we are all immigrants to begin with. In my eyes we are all one and united we should stay. If we all stay united, then this whole issue of "Immigrants" should diminish with time. I would love to read what others have to say about this topic. Great Job.

    Re: Who Gets to Be American?

    Great question!!!

    An American is anyone who chooses to come here (preferably legally) and both make it their home and protect it so it can be home to others.

    Re: Who Gets to Be American?

    Hi,

    This question is certainly an important one to ask in times like these. Personally, I think borders are ridiculous. There is absolutely no good reason for us to be so possessive over land that we originally stole from other people. I think all borders should be open and everyone should be allowed to visit and live anywhere. It is pretty silly to think that we have drawn imaginary lines and killed people because of them.

    To answer your questions: An American in someone who lives in America. Everyone should have the right to pursue citizenship as the exclusivity of citizenship is immoral and discriminatory. Citizenship is immoral at its essence because we are controlling rights to land that we have no business controlling. It is discriminatory because the path to citizenship is never equal for all kinds of people- certain people get preferential treatment, for example wealthy people have more access to citizenship than others. Citizenship should be free, available and accessible to all. Borders should be just checks to make sure that there is no malicious intent and that's it- everyone should be able to live wherever they want. As long as people are contributing to the economy and paying their taxes, their origin should make no difference to us.

    Monica M.

    Re: Who Gets to Be American?

    within much of the immigration debate, there is a mezcla, a mixup, that takes place. there is a clear difference between the immigration issue and the undocumented immigration issue.

    all nations have the right, duty, obligation to control who enters.

    folks who cross a border and thereby break a nation's laws by entering become subject to whatever penalties that nation decides to bring about.

    that multiple presidents from both powerful parties over multiple decades have chosen to ignore the issue and even not enforce existing immigration laws is now causing a great deal of hardship for children, for families and for businesses having difficulty staffing their operations.

    if you don't think immigration laws are fair or just, just work to change or eliminate them. places like san francisco which choose simply to ignore those laws set the stage down the line for authoritarian rule where all laws become subject to whim... and once the laws of the united states become fully subject to whim, immigrants will find that the u.s. has taken steps to be just like many of the countries they want to leave behind, and everyone will lose.

    Re: Who Gets to Be American?

    Hi Bruce,

    As a son of a Mexican immigrant this post is very relevant to me.

    To me, what makes an American an American is not the fact that they speak English, or that they know our history, although those are important, but rather that they have ties to this country that cannot be divorced from their identity. This includes anyone who has lived here as a resident, people born here, or people born abroad to American parents. With this broad self expressed “definition” many Americans exist throughout the world today. America is a unique place marked with an incredibly rich diversity. Our diversity includes many people of all nations which is unseen in many places.

    To me, anyone who desires to be an American should be allowed to pursue America as long as they desire the good of America as well. This excludes all hostile groups of people penetrating our nation.

    If I were in charge, I would propose less strict laws to allow genuine people to become citizens, yet maintain security for the safety of citizens already here. I like the idea that candidates would pledge allegiance, it seems courteous and respectful at the least.

    It took my mom around 15 long years to become an American citizen, but long before that I saw her as an American with a Mexican aroma. She is Mexican at heart, but her new identity here in America has made her who she is now. I only wish the process would have been more swift and less burdensome for her. All the scrutinous tests, traveling, and interviews seemed borderline overkill, for someone who has contributed to her local community as she has. The road to citizenship is paved with speed bumps, obstacles, and obstructions. I know I take my citizenship for granted. It’s seems unfair that we do that when people leave all behind for a spot in America.

    I also strongly agree with others that we are all immigrants or descendants unless you are Native American. We shouldn’t bar out people if they want to live here as long as they desire the health, safety and welfare of the others living here. It seems selfish of those living here to want to keep this stolen land to ourselves. The booty of America should be shared with all those that want it, flaws and all.

    Thanks for reading!

    ~Jon

    Re: Who Gets to Be American?

    Being an American means virtually nothing, in my candid opinion. And all have the right to pursue citizenship here, no barriers; even then, in many peoples' eyes, for many reasons, citizenship is not always accompanied by the identifier "American".

    It is an empty label, "American". The only stipulation that could be attached is that you have lived in America, at some point in time.

    But if you are an "illegal" or legal immigrant who is proud to have escaped an impoverished nation, a country devastated by the effects of Western colonization especially, who is happy to live in America and use that term then you're American. If you are one born of this nation and feel the word fits, then you are American. The word American stopped being a term of legitimacy since it was birthed-- this nation was created through subjugation and bloodshed, through VIOLENT (and by the British Monarchy's opinions of the time, "illegal") immigration. I'd say the only "true" Americans (not to contradict what I've stated about the limitlessness of this term, but more to address America's origin itself and the bizarre sense of pride that especially "native-born" Americans have) are Native Americans and other peoples who were settled in North and South America long before Spanish greed and British violence dug its roots in. Especially in the context of Mexican citizens coming to America, calling themselves American before having acquired full citizenship, there is an unwillingness to acknowledge the land we "Americans" stole brutally from Mexico, blinded from avarice as we were (and maybe still are) and the various ways that America has undermined their economy and government in times following. To now tell these people that they are selfish and criminal for seeking asylum in a nation that pretends to pride itself on assisting the downtrodden is a true iniquity.

    I have lived in Hawaii the entirety of my short life. Hawaii is a state, but seldom do you find a person here who is proud to call themselves American; you might be especially pressed to find a kanaka person who would use that label, as so many native people know this land to be stolen.

    America lies when it calls itself the land of the free and saviour of poor and broken; like every other nation, it steals and maims and then cannot even have the shame to stop the production of the Confederate flag, of its violence. Thus, in our lies, we forfeit the right to limit the term "American".

    Re: Who Gets to Be American?

    This is a very controversial challenge indeed but I love how everyone is being very civil about the topic. A fresh change from facebook or twitter!

    What is it to be an American and who has the right to pursue citizenship? Anyone has the right to pursue citizenship of America in my opinion as long as they do So the legal way. The thing is if you are pursuing becoming American but you do it iligally you are already breaking American laws, and that is a problem. If you can not respect the laws why try to become of that society?

    Does being American mean being born here? Yes! Being born here makes you American automatically even if your parents are not from America. This does make it difficult when it comes to keeping families together if and when the parents are here iligally or even legally. If the parents wish to stay in America with their born child, they should be given a chance to become legal citizens.

    Being able to speak English? I do feel like this is something that needs to happen. You should learn the language that is the current native language of the country that you wish to become a citizen of. If i wanted to become a German citizen best asured that I would need to learn the language. After all how are you supposed to speak with your fellow citizens if you do not know what they are saying. With all that being said, I would accept broken English as it shows the person wishes to learn the language or they are currently in the process of learning the language.

    Having American born parents? I do not think this is an issue although if your parents are American and they are in another country when you are born and raised in another country you should be able to apply for duel citizenship. I know some countries will allow the grandchildren of a natural born citizen get duel citizenship.

    Declaring allegiance to our country? This is a must for people that comes to our country from any other country. I think depending on the country you should be able to even obtain American citizenship as a duel citizenship.

    How would you define citizenship, and what path -- if any -- would you make available to people who are looking to become a part of our country? I do feel that there should be a process. I know that the process that we have has MANY faults. It leaves people waiting for years unknowing if they will be approved or deported. I think the process needs to be faster.

    I have so much more to say but it is cutting me off due to length.

    Re: Who Gets to Be American?

    Being American means putting the country before any other country; defending the flag when necessary; respecting and following societal laws; and STANDING UP for what you believe in WITHOUT PREJUDICE!
    Gina

    Re: Who Gets to Be American?

    Hey,

    Any one in my eyes can be an American with the correct paperwork of course. Lots of immigrants come here to have a better life for themselves and their families. Seeing these families being ripped apart is so heartbreaking. Trump knows nothing about what America stands for, he’s truly an idiot.

    Immigrants don’t come here to sit on their behinds and not do nothing. They love to work so they can save up money to live in America and sometimes send money back to their country’s to help their other loved ones. I’ve noticed people who come to America, they tend to be all looking for work of some sort and they work hard at the jobs they do get. Being able to speak English is important if you want to work in America.

    If I was to help create a path for immigrants to be declared as an Americans, it would be very simple. Not only would they have to get the paper work to become citizens, I feel also as though if they work hard and stay out of trouble, why not let them stay. They just want a better life and I feel as though America should try to help provide that for them.

    -Regiknee

    Re: Who Gets to Be American?

    To be American means a mix of global cultures and to embrace the diversity of everyone who lives here, to have a fair judicial system, to have the freedoms in the Constitution and the ability to get jobs and live the American dream.

    People who come here illegally should have the chance to be come citizens if they can show they are good citizens and are upholding the law. The Constitution refers to the "privileges and immunities" of citizenship but also offers protection for people living here regardless of nationality, including the right to equal protection of the laws and due process. Every person may attend schools, hold jobs, pay taxes and receive benefits. That is America.

    Immigration reform has been highly debated. Should immigrants who are in the country illegally be given a path to citizenship? Should children born to parents who are not here legally be entitled to birthright citizenship? Citizenship is the only acceptable way to legalize immigrants. The criteria for naturalization should be more rigorous however.

    The Supreme Court has held that the Constitution confers citizenship on children born in the U.S. The 14th Amendment defines a U.S. citizen as anyone "born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof," ... This has been interpreted as a license for Congress to exclude from citizenship persons born of foreigners in the country illegally. The idea that place of birth guarantees citizenship is not universally accepted, even among modern nations. It is tricky because the children didn't chose their path.

    I believe there has to be tighter background checks and those coming into the country. Currently they must be a permanent resident for 5 years and be expected to read, write and speak English. One common language is essential so we can all communicate. They don't need to give up their natural heritage, however. Just be able to communicate. They should be willing to fight for this country and uphold the Constitution. They should participate in the democratic process, and respect the law. If they truly want to be American citizens, this should not be a problem and I imagine they would want to do so. Diversity is what makes America so special an I embrace it.

    A very good friend of our family was adopted from another country and as a teenager has finally become an official Naturalized US Citizen. Her parents are teachers and their daughter is an exceptional student. We are elated for her!

    Re: Who Gets to Be American?

    Hi Bruce,

    I love reading the comments on this post because, as Lostlionz stated, it's civil. Many times when you open up your social media feeds, it's hateful in either direction, regardless of your views. It's nice to see this topic respectfully debated.

    I think anyone should have the right to live in any country that they choose, but I think it should be done so legally. However, I recognize that our process for people to become legal needs to be reformed. I have two friends that have been working in this country (legally, with a greencard) since 2012. They (hopefully) will attain citizenship this year. These are hardworking people who are greatly attributing to out US economy. Because of their status, if they so much as get a speeding ticket, they risk deportation. These are good people that they system is working against.

    People who are here illegally run many risks, and they don't get to enjoy all of the pleasures of being a true US citizen.

    I definitely think our process needs to be simplified and reformed, so that people can come here legally and become citizens.

    Thanks for the forum!

    Megan

    Re: Who Gets to Be American?

    Hey Bruce,
    Great topic. I believe anyone has the right to pursue becoming an American citizen because after all, we all are immigrants here. That being said, I firmly believe it needs to be done appropriately and legally. There are too many people putting their children's lives at risk by trying to dangerously escape these rules. I couldn't expect to go to another country like France and just say that I am going to be a citizen now. There are rules and processes that I would have to follow to do so.

    I expect my neighbor to pay the same number of taxes I do in order to live here and I think that should be true across the board. If we continue to operate with a broken system where the taxes that are charged and the benefits that are flowing out aren't balanced, we are putting serious pressure on those who already live here.

    My coworker is an immigrant from China. He and his wife had a long process of coming here but he went through the legal process and is so proud of the life he has built for his children. He and his wife worked hard and are now very successful. He wouldn't change his struggles because it has helped guide him a long the way.

    This dream should be for anyone and everyone who works for it. My dream is to become a graduate for CollegeNet. I didn't start this process thinking I should automatically be handed a $10,000 scholarship. I've had to follow the rules and put in the consistent work to be a part of this community.

    Thanks!
    Morgan

    Re: Who Gets to Be American?

    Hi Bruce,

    Lostlionz and Regiknee said it best. Anyone should be allowed to become an American citizen depending on their intentions in coming here (terrorists need not apply). Make the process of becoming a citizen simpler and faster. 15 years? I had no idea, I thought it was more like 1 or 2 years. Even that is too long. Each "side", the immigrant and the government, should do the paperwork in a timely manner and citizenship could be attained in less than a year.

    As for our ancestors stealing land from the Native Americans, it is now conjectured that the Native Americans themselves immigrated from Asia via the Bering Strait which was commonly believed to be land connecting Alaska to Asia before water covered it. Not sure if anyone can verify that, but fossils found seem to indicate that. But I guess they found the land first.....

    I wonder, should America be the only country with no immigration policy as suggested by some of these posts? I think every country has laws governing immigration, and why should we be the only country without immigration laws and policies? What would happen to me if I wanted to immigrate to some other country? Perhaps if I didn't follow their laws I would be jailed or deported?

    Should there be no borders for countries? How would that work in say, Europe? How would any country be able to govern and even take care of it's people if there were no borders?

    Should we continue to be punished by what our ancestors did?

    Thanks for reading!

    Kasey

    Re: Who Gets to Be American?

    Hi Bruce!

    I believe that anyone should be able to be an American. America is a melting pot so other people should have the chance to come here and be an American. I agree with everyone else the process should not be as long as it is. Honestly If we did not have people coming here the simple jobs would not be done. Such as the fruits and veggies that we see at the store are only cheap because the labor that is done for it they get paid enough to live a daily life but not enough to live as they would want.

    Thanks!
    Madison

    Re: Who Gets to Be American?

    It's an interesting question because the American identity does not have a singular definition. The only people who can claim a true "American" identity (technically) are First Nations people and everyone knows how well that gets them treated...

    I don't know that there is a modern way to judge citizenship without being more exclusive than originally intended. If you make it about taxes then you're going back to the early days of this nation when only wealthy (white male) landowners could vote. If you make it about a language then you're choosing one group's identity over the multitude of languages and culture that make our country so special. And if someone has to be born here well you've destroyed the idea of legal immigration all together.

    Basically the only way to define an American in my book is someone who calls the land within our borders their primary residence.

    Re: Who Gets to Be American?

    This is a really interesting question. I've always found it so interesting that particular immigration has been perceived as a threat. When I say particular, I mean those who are being targeted for coming south of the border. If you'll also notice, immigrants being targeted are people of color, because you certainly don't see white immigrants when immigration is discussed. I find it ironic that people are claiming that immigrants are drug dealers, rapists, and gang members. It's like they're ignoring the fact that we have those kind of people who are Americans, so they can't act like we're a country that's free of drugs, gangs, and rapists (some of which are still walking free). In history class, we were taught that a lot of people started immigrating over here, and in return, it lead to the severe mistreatment, endless abuse on multiple accounts, and genocide of the Native American peoples who were the real Americans. But while Native American history is brushed on with the Trail of Tears and other sad events, a lot of history that is taught in school is based on how immigrants were coming over, how things were fine and dandy, in some respects, with immigrants coming over, and everything else like that.

    If people want to say "Get out of our country", then perhaps the only people who really get the privilege to say that is those of Native American descent, because heaven only knows how much of their history turned to suffering and pain when certain people started coming over. Anyway, to answer your question, I honestly think that labeling people as a certain nationality is where things get tricky and hostile. An American is usually thought of as being English-speaking and born here, but what some people forget is that we are all human beings who share this planet. What does it matter what your language is, your skin color, or what section and piece of geography of the Earth you were born on? America is seen as the land of opportunity and home of the American Dream, so you can't blame people for wanting to come here. If people were truly concerned about immigrants coming over here, they'd let them in and assess what's going on in their home countries that made them leave.

    No one wants to leave their home behind, but when you have some immigrants coming over here to flee the violence, whether already inflicted or threatened, shutting them out is just cruel and heartless.

    Re: Who Gets to Be American?

    While I am Mexican myself, I was born in the US. And I am proud of being an American.

    Anyone who wants to become an American should have the chance to be one, legally. But they should be willing to work hard and not constantly depend on the govenment to give them everything they want.

    The only exception to that would be criminals from anywhere else. I don't care from where. Mexico, Germany, Canada, China...if they're an unrepentant criminal, like responsible for murders or rapes or being part of a drug cartel, they shouldn't be here. We have enough problems with criminals already here. Why would we want to add more?

    However...a nation without borders eventually becomes lawless. It's not stupid to want to protect the people already in a country. I think borders are less about land and more about protecting the people here.

    I know many people here illegally, and while I understand why...it doesn't change the fact that they're breaking the law by being here.

    Why should the US be the only country to NOT enforce our borders? Shouldn't we have a say in who comes and who doesn't? Why does the world want us to be their dumping ground?

    This is a very thought provoking challenge. Thank you.

    All my best,
    ~Shybelle

    Re: Who Gets to Be American?

    I moved to America when I was 4 years old. I've lived here for more than 14 years of my life, but I still don't feel accepted as a "real" American yet. I know in my mind that I am American, that I share the same values and responsibilities as other Americans, but the government tends to use words (such as "alien") that make me doubt myself. People often think of Americans as people that were born here, their parents were born here, they speak english with an amazing accuracy, and most often, they tend to glaze over the fact that people from other countries/people of color are just as American as they are. No one ever questions immigrants who come from Europe. My family came here legally, but lots of immigrant families seek the same kind of opportunity and safety regardless of documentation. I know it's difficult to comprehend, but leaving your whole world behind is terrifying, especially when there is violence + danger in a place you've called your home for forever.

    I look up to my parents with complete admiration for being brave enough to leave their families, and creating a whole new life across the sea, for them, and for me. My mother has not seen her own mother in FOURTEEN years. My father was unable to attend his own father's FUNERAL because no matter how hard we worked, we weren't able to afford tickets back home. I hope this shows just how much immigrant families have to go through mentally + physically. We are all hard-workers who just want a better life but sometimes it comes with a cost. Feeling hopeless in a new land while everyone back home thinks we are living the lavish American life. Wondering if citizenship and eligibility for green card status will ever come for us. We have been here for 14 years.. and we still do not have the opportunity to get green-cards, or even start the process of citizenship because of how expensive the whole process is. Sometimes we doubt our purpose of even starting a life here, but we know it's worth it, and the American perseverance shines through. We remind ourselves of the countless opportunities that America has provided for us, and how blessed we have been through this journey.

    It's sad that they are making it harder for legal immigrants to obtain citizenship if they used government aid (obamacare, food stamps). It's hard enough as it is obtaining a green card, and now they are targeting lower income immigrants, which is cruel.

    I hope one day, maybe, I'll feel just as American as you all.
    Alex

    Re: Who Gets to Be American?

    This is a good topic and one that is a huge debate now. My sister is married to a Mexican and I do not remember exactly what he is trying to get but I know it's not a green card yet but some sort of visa. He came here when he was around 14, his dad was already a citizen. He wanted to make his sons citizens. Well for some reason he wasn't able to completely go through the process all because he wasn't married to their biological mom.

    Well now my sister and him and been going through the process for a few years. They have already had to switch lawyers because they first was not doing his job, would claim to lose paperwork even emails sent when my sister had proof of sending They lost thousands of dollars they could not get back. To get a new one, they had to put $2000 down right away. Luckily they are further in the process and right now they are waiting on an appointment down in Mexico, where hopefully he will be approved so when he returns he will be here legally.

    It's crazy expensive and I have heard for some countries it's not. It's a long process. One of my friends it took him 10 years and over $10,000. I definitely think it needs to be cheaper and not long and drawn out. Believe it or not most I know do file their taxes and will pay if they owe. But if they are owed a refund, they aren't able to get it not being legally here which makes me wonder, where is their money going? And I would just like to add I know more who are born here working under the table than I do those who aren't legal citizens.

    It is a problem. And yes the majority of Americans have immigrant pasts. My grandma's father actually came here illegally as a stowaway. From what I heard that wasn't uncommon during that time. People like to bring up "my ancestors came here legally" but don't know that back then and now, the process is very different. It was easier back then and a lot cheaper.

    I think anyone as long as they don't have an extremely violent past from their home country should be allowed. And those currently here, I feel there is too many to deport so we do need to give them a chance to apply for citizenship. Many are hard-working people and many only came here to have a better life, just like our ancestors chose to do.