With the recent wave of protests for changing our immigration laws, there has been a great deal of conflation of all aliens within the United States. That’s wrong — they are not a monolithic group. Of the literally millions of non-Americans in our country, here for numerous reasons, and to lump all of them together under one big label is sheer intellectual laziness.
I’ve been doing some thinking, and I believe I’ve managed to cover nearly all of them.
To those who come to America for tourism: I say welcome. We have a shorter history than many nations, not even two and a half centuries, but we have made the most of those years. We have many fascinating people and places, and we hope you enjoy your stay.
To those who come to America for study: I say welcome. You do us a great compliment, and hope we can learn from you as you learn from our schools. In many parts of the world, an American degree is considered a sign of distinction, and I hope you earn that and use it well.
To those who come to America to work legally: I say thank you. Despite the silliness of some of our people (including a vastly disproportionate number at the above-mentioned colleges and universities), you affirm that America is still “the land of opportunity,” and you prove on a daily basis your willingness to work hard, work within the system, and do what you need to do to succeed. You are often a challenge to our own workers, but the kind of challenge that makes us want to do better.
To those who come to America to become citizens: I say thank you. You pay us the highest compliment you can, by saying that you wish to be one of us. It is not an easy process, to seek to renounce one’s own citizenship and seek to become an American, but it should not be easy. It is one of the biggest decisions one can make in one’s life. However, I think I can safely say that of all the nations in the world, America puts the fewest burdens to becoming a citizen.
I also envy you, a little. You will always cherish your citizenship a bit more dearly than I appreciate mine. You will be able to point with pride at that certificate and say “I earned that,” while I and many of my fellow native-born citizens simply take it for granted. You will be able to remember the day you won it, while we simply take it for granted as something we’ve had since birth. I freely welcome you and embrace you as brothers and sisters, but I never forget that you chose and worked for what we share. It’s similar to how I think of adopted children; they should never doubt if they were truly wanted, or were an “accident;” their parents had to put a hell of a lot more work into having them than most birth parents. That which we work for we value far more than that which we are freely given.
And finally, to those who are here illegally, through either false pretenses, refusing to leave as originally promised, or simply sneaking across the border: I say leave. I don’t care in the least about what benefits I might allegedly enjoy from your presence. Nor do I recognize any innate “right” to come to the United States by any means you choose. As I said above, no nation in the world has as open policies as we do to come here, both temporarily and permanently. If those rules are not lax enough to suit you, feel free to work towards changing them. But do not flout them and then demand forgiveness. Do not insult my nation by ignoring our laws, and then seek the benefit of the law.
The recent waves of protests have done yeoman’s work at muddling the issue. To them, all who have come to the United States are equal, regardless of the means they arrived. That is a gross insult to those who respected the system, followed the rules, did the paperwork, waited in line, and showed respect for our nation and our laws from the very first. To lump those exceptionally worthy people in with those who lied on their “tourist” or “student” visas, those who refused to leave when they agreed to, or simply broke into this nation is one of the crassest political acts I have ever witnessed (and as someone who lives next door to Massachusetts, the state that gave the country Ted Kennedy, Michael Dukakis, and John Kerry, that’s saying a LOT). It must not be allowed to stand unchallenged. Those people being lumped in with the illegal aliens are far better than that. They are some of the finest people our nation can claim, and should not be so insulted.