Setting the Citizenship Bar Too High

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryI always get personally upset whenever I hear ignorant fools who claim that “illegals are coming over the border and grabbing our jobs, and our benefits.” What comes next is that many of these people, especially those brainwashed by right wing news media outlets, claim that we should vote for people who will “cut immigration in half,” “make it harder for illegals to get benefits,” and make U.S. citizenship requirements that much harder. First of all, arbitrarily cutting immigration to almost nothing more often than not actually only encourages illegal immigration. Second, becoming a legal U.S. permanent resident does not mean immigrants get benefits, or any benefits at all. Finally, becoming a U.S. citizen is already extremely tough as it is. Making it next to impossible will mean that we may shut out too many people who could qualify.

I personally know this because my wife, a Korean immigrant, did not find her path to become a U.S. citizen easy. On the path to becoming a U.S. citizen, she had to have an absolutely clean record. No criminal felonies in the United States or from her country of origin. The U.S. government checks that one out. Second, she has to have a good command of English. One cannot become a U.S. citizen without having at the very least a high school (12th grade) level of English. Finally, the fees that must be paid to U.S. immigration (not to mention lawyers’ fees) keeps on rising, and the amount of study about the United States by a prospective U.S. citizen must be thorough and ably demonstrated to a U.S. immigration official at an appointed time. This knowledge must include knowledge about high school level American history, how the U.S. government works, and the knowledge of the names of President of the United States, the Vice-president of the United States, and the names of the U.S. senators of house representatives of the state an immigrant lives in.

The immigrant must take a written test, an oral test of the same material, and show they can communicate to an immigration officer in English. Failure on any of this means that an immigrant must start again from scratch, spend all the money again, and this process could take months or even years. Assuming a person does pass all of this, the most important thing is to be on-time at the official swearing in ceremony. Without this, you cannot become a U.S. citizen. If you miss an official swearing in ceremony twice without any explanation, you will NOT be allowed to become a U.S. citizen and therefore must start all over again. For all immigrants, the bar to become a U.S. citizen is already pretty high, not to mention the fact that legally immigrating to the United States and becoming a U.S. citizen is already an incredibly difficult process. But it only takes one xenophobic demagogue would-be politician to get millions of people whipped up into a frenzy to make America a more hellish place for those immigrants who want to be part of the American Dream.

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