The annual Independence Day naturalization ceremonies in cities across the United States, including here in Seattle, are inspirational and moving. According to U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, 9,000 people became U.S. citizens during more than 100 ceremonies in the week up to and including July 4.
Immigrants becoming U.S. citizens is the thing that defines us. We are the most colorful and culturally diverse nation on the planet because of it. That should bring us pride and joy, but unfortunately for too many, it brings fear and loathing, all rooted in ignorance.
We have serious immigration policy flaws in this country. Currently, there is the heartbreaking crisis in the form of tens of thousands of children making their way into the United States from Central America all by themselves — 52,000 just since October. The Obama administration has stated that most will be sent back, and several U.S. lawmakers are demanding that it happen immediately. You would think lawmakers would know the law regarding child immigrants, who have certain procedural rights now that they are here — rights that Obama now says he wants to eliminate.
What’s ugly is the groups of protesters on the border, blocking busloads of children, yelling at them to go home, and holding signs with messages of hatred. One such sign read, “This is not Ellis Island.” Incidentally, according to the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation Inc., 40 percent of Americans can trace at least one of their ancestors to Ellis Island. Everyone else, save Native Americans, is also either an immigrant or descended from immigrants.
These protesters, essentially screaming at children to “get off my lawn,” are an embarrassing stain on America. Why you gotta be so mean? Maybe we can’t let 50,000 children move in this year, but we can at least be humane about it. We need to work with the governments of Central America. Let’s do a scientific study of this mass migration, and find its causes and solutions.
We also need to consider the kind of person who struggles through immense hardship to come to the United States’ little corner of America. In most cases, these people understand citizenship even better than those who were born here. Often they work harder, participate more fully, and contribute more meaningfully to their new country than the ones who are throwing temper tantrums in front of buses filled with children.
What immigrants understand is that opportunity is a thing that is earned, and to be used responsibly, not a thing that is handed to them, to be used as a barrier to blind them to the plight of others.
But maybe it’s a tactic with a purpose. Showing the neighbor children that we are a nation of bullies might be just the ticket to send them home thinking America would be a terrible place to live. So, instead of welcoming them into a country that is friendly and kind, we send them home thinking America is a hateful country and one to be feared.
Is that how we want our neighbor children south of the border growing up to think of us? (end)