Tag Archive | "immigrants"

So You Want to Be an American?

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Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shores.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.




These words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty hearken back to a time when the United States government meant them.   From the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, throngs of humanity forsook their homelands to make a long and sometimes perilous journey by sea across the Atlantic Ocean.  Landing on Ellis Island, these people gazed up in wonder at the proud and majestic Lady Liberty.  The torch she held aloft was a metaphor for the travelers’ hopes and dreams: they had finally reached America, the land whose streets were said to be paved with gold.


Some came from Ireland; the lucky ones, that is.  Too many Irish men, women, and children died of starvation at sea, the victims of their country’s two potato famines.  Others came from Europe simply to make better lives for themselves and their children.  Irish, Italian, or Eastern European, each group arrived with their own language and culture.  Before they would come to create America’s “melting pot,” their one commonality was their belief in the promises carved onto the Statue of Liberty.


As the saying goes, “That was then. This is now.”  Now, those promises are so empty that perhaps we should consider scrapping them as we did the Berlin Wall.  The truth is that the golden door is closed for the huddled masses and wretched refuse named in the inscription on Lady Liberty.  The Land of the Free is no longer free of charge.  Today, it costs money to apply for U.S. citizenship.


According to the USCIS (United States Citizenship & Immigration Service), that cost is $680.00 American dollars, $595.00 of which is required to process a single application from a single foreigner.  The remaining $85.00 is for biometric fees.  A full 90% of the USCIS’ budget comes from these fees.  The fees are adjusted every two years and guess what?  They are never adjusted downward.  The USCIS claims that the process of naturalization – the final step before attaining citizenship — is expensive.  Indeed, it is.  As a requirement for attaining citizenship, immigrants must be permanent, legal residents of the United States for at least five years.  This time span is shorter if applicants’ parents or spouses are U.S, citizens.


Some immigrants, however, don’t achieve citizenship so, ahem, quickly.  For some living and working under reduced circumstances, it’s difficult to save up the necessary fees.  Adding insult to injury is the fact that the fees are non-refundable; neither does their payment guarantee citizenship.  Even Green Cards carry fees.  But hey, the USCIS doesn’t care about these petty matters.  With 90% of the agency’s budget dependent upon the fees it charges, one can only assume just how hefty the salaries of the agency’s top management must be.


As Popeye would say, “I can read written an’ write wrotten, but this writin’ is wrotten rotten.”  I guess the USCIS wants to acquaint would-be citizens with the American banking system before they even arrive on our shores.


However, all is not rotten in Denmark … I mean, the U.S. of A.  The Obama administration has demonstrated its commitment to encouraging increased citizenship because it is good for America.  Ali Noonani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, stated, “We applaud the Administration for not increasing [fees] and putting a halt to increased fees for immigrants who are eager to become American citizens.”   But even if the fees remain where they are, would-be citizens still have to come up with 680 bucks.  This truly is good for America because our government has discovered a new source of revenue that does not involve taxing the rich.  All we need are immigrants willing and able to pay into the system.


It is any wonder that hordes of aliens are streaming illegally across our southern borders in hot pursuit of the American Dream?  For those who slip like butter past the border guards, life is but a dream.  But for those trying to enter this country legally, that dream has become a nightmare.


Be the Boss!

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What does the word “dependent” mean to you?  To the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), it means an individual under the legal age, who requires the assistance of another person (i.e., a parent or guardian) to ensure his or her survival.  The concept of “dependent,” however, is changing: it now seems to reflect an entire nation — the United States of America — instead of an individual.

As a result of the riches that once abounded here, many Americans achieved comfortable lifestyles — comfortable, that is, from the perspective of those living in emerging nations.  But, comfort is a two-edged sword.  Because our lifestyle does not demand long, hard hours of menial work, we have become dependent on other nations for our future.

Oh, how the worm has turned!

At the dawn of the twentieth century, America opened its doors to the people of Western Europe.  Clearly engraved upon the Statue of Liberty, our invitation stated, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  With the further promise of lifting her lamp “beside the golden door,” Lady Liberty warmly greeted Europe’s downtrodden at Ellis Island.

The immigrants came with the hope of building a better life for themselves and their families.  Although poor, most were inspired by what lay ahead of them. Contrary to what many immigrants had heard, our streets were not paved with gold.  There were no social programs to launch them on a journey that would require hard work, sacrifice, and the love of family to succeed in this brave new world.

Many unskilled immigrants settled in ghettos with others of their own ethnicities.  However, they soon broke down the barriers of language and culture as they assimilated into an American society later and appropriately dubbed, “The Great Melting Pot.”  Some immigrants even took to the streets to earn a living, using pushcarts, horses, and wagons to vend their wares.

The Italian market in Philadelphia is an example of how immigrants created a marketplace for all types of food and vegetables sold in an open-air environment.  That market survives until the present day, but it is slowly changing to an Asian market via an influx of new immigrants. 

With only a basic education, these émigrés have established small, service-oriented businesses.  They run their enterprises on blood, sweat, and tears: the work ethic that once made American great.  The new immigrants have little time for TV, sports, or other types of entertainment.  The Land of Paucity for many native-born Americans has become the Land of Plenty for the newest wave of immigrants.  With diligence, they have achieved the American dream in less than a generation.  They are to be applauded for this!

Meanwhile, native-born Americans are living a nightmare.  Manufacturing is gone, but we refuse to accept the types of jobs that are putting food on the tables of the immigrants.  Maybe we, and particularly, our children growing up in this economy, should take a page out of the immigrants’ book to find other avenues of surviving.

Learning a trade is one such avenue; a blue-collar education will read immediate and long-term rewards.  If you doubt this, think of all the times that you have had to rely upon the services of a skilled electrician, a plumber, or heating and air conditioning technician.  And, the cost of a vocational school education is considerably more affordable than college tuition.

When Donald Trump says, “You’re fired!” on TV, it’s entertaining.  But if an employer uses those same words, it’s a death knell.  Before the axe falls, we should cultivate another perspective, another set of ideals.  Perhaps we should look to the industrious immigrants, quietly and methodically toiling toward economic independence, as our role models for economic independence. 

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