Law and freedom: Can we have both?

I roll through stop signs if there’s no traffic.

I fudged deadlines all the time as a copy editor to get the latest news in the paper.

I jog in the rain, or in snow with 15-degree temperatures (not this year yet, though).

And yet:

I get at least eight hours of sleep every night.

I’ve never received a speeding ticket.

When I’m scheduled to be somewhere, I always show up early.

So, who am I?

I’m a rule-breaker. But I learn the rules first, so I know which ones I can break. And when.

Two plus two equals …

I came down with pneumonia as a college student, so I don’t have the stamina that most of you do. If I don’t get enough sleep, I get sick.

If I break rules, there are consequences. That’s one consequence I don’t want. So I go to bed early every night.

I drive with common sense. I’ve written blogs on this before. Safety is paramount; I drive the speed limit or slightly above, weather conditions permitting. I fudge the law only when it’s safe, and my eyes are wide open. (But I’ll stop at a red light, even if there is no other traffic in sight.)

I married a math expert. Two plus two is always four to her. I’m a journalist at heart. Two plus two could have multiple meanings. Two apples plus two oranges equals four pieces of fruit, but you still have only two apples.

Are you counting fruit, or apples?

… safety …

This is the source of today’s political divide. We don’t know what we’re counting.

One side is all about laws.

The other side is all about humanity.

What happens when law and humanity clash?

We get a government shutdown.

Laws serve a crucial purpose. They give us structure and order. The trash truck comes every Friday. Our City Council signs a contract with the trash hauler to do that. My tax dollars pay for it. That’s the way government works.

Here’s a better example, actually. My tax dollars also help pay for the local police department. Its primary job is to keep the residents of our city, including me, safe. The City Council, the county, the state and the federal governments all pass laws intended to keep us safe. Opioids and illegal drugs hurt people. Thieves and robbers hurt people. Drivers who weave in and out of traffic and/or run red lights risk causing a collision and hurting people.

Laws protect us, and police and the court system defend the right to live without fear for our lives. That’s the goal, anyway.

… or freedom …

But are laws themselves ever oppressive?

Once upon a time, women were not legally allowed to vote. Other laws enforced slavery. It took time, far too much time, before those injustices were legally corrected.

Today’s hottest debate is over illegal immigrants trying to enter this country through Mexico. Immigrants have been doing this for decades, and I’ve read that in recent years the immigration rate has actually declined.

But we now have a president who wants to cut off the illegal immigrants’ entry into this country completely. Illegal, by definition, means they are breaking a law.

But are the immigration laws of this country fair? And are illegal immigrants as evil as Republicans make them out to be?

The answer to the first question must be decided by Congress and the president. The second question? A resounding, “no.”

… or both?

Illegal immigrants are not an organized band of terrorists seeking to destroy American life, as Al-Qaeda was on Sept. 11, 2001. They are mostly women and children fleeing their native countries because their lives are in jeopardy there. Gang wars and violence have destroyed the culture of Honduras and other Central American societies. These women and children have seen relatives and friends die, and face death and/or poverty themselves.

Americans cannot comprehend this. No one in my community is seeking my life.

Why is it so wrong for such people to seek a place to live where they don’t have to fear death every day?

If crime and terrorism are the reasons why, well, those issues are already here. News flash. Illegal immigrants aren’t going to change society much at all.

My wife and I met a 77-year-old woman on Christmas Day while delivering meals to several families in town. She has custody of her two teenage great-grandchildren, because no one else in her family wants them. The teens’ mother is a drug addict and can’t be around her children. The 16-year-old girl has anger issues and screams at the top of her lungs, forcing neighbors to call the police sometimes. The great-grandmother does what she can to keep her fragile family together. They rent a one-bedroom house – which isn’t legal since the teens are a boy and girl. So the boy gets the bedroom and the girl and great-grandma sleep on mattresses in the living room.

They’ve been in this house only a short time, and likely won’t stay long if they can find a place with more bedrooms.

When children move that often, it’s not surprising that they have trouble keeping up in school.

Building a border wall won’t help this family.

We need laws, certainly. We need security, of course. The wall might appease some politicians, but it won’t do much – if anything – to improve security in this country.

Can we pass laws to improve security that actually work? Do our immigration laws assist apples and oranges together, or are we defending the apples and trying to remove the oranges?

What is the fruit of our labor?

Do two and two always equal four, or is there another possible answer?

Our country is full of oranges as well as apples.

Can we enjoy the flavors that both bring to this country?

Is there a way to get creative and keep the law at the same time?

Immigration not open to all

As the immigration debate rages, with emotions running high, with children separated from their parents at the border, with illegal and legal immigrants often lumped together in the same discussion, with nationalism (build the wall) vs. we all were immigrants at one time (unless we are native Americans by definition) …

I ask myself:

Is the process for legal immigration really that difficult? Are the border clashes really necessary?

The answers are: It depends. And yes, probably.

For those trying to enter illegally, the process is complicated, if not impossible.

Immigrants who are educated and/or have family members already legally here have a much easier time entering the United States.

Everyone who plans to live here must have a valid reason for doing so. Future citizenship often is one of those reasons.

According to usa.gov, the citizenship process requires time and effort:

https://www.usa.gov/become-us-citizen

U.S. Citizenship through Naturalization

Becoming a citizen through naturalization is a process in which a non-U.S. citizen voluntarily becomes an American citizen. U.S. citizens owe their allegiance to the United States and are entitled to its protection and to exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens.

Review this visual overview (PDF, Download Adobe Reader) about the general naturalization process.

To become a U.S. citizen, you must:

  • Have had a Permanent Resident (Green) Card for at least five years, or for at least three years if you’re filing as the spouse of a U.S. citizen
    • If you apply for naturalization less than six months before your Permanent Resident Card expires, or do not apply for naturalization until your card has already expired, you must renew your card.
    • You can apply for naturalization before you receive your new Green Card, but you’ll need to submit a photocopy of the receipt of your Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, when you receive it.
  • Meet certain eligibility requirements including being
    • At least 18 years old at the time of filing
    • Able to read, write, and speak basic English
    • A person of good moral character
  • Go through the ten step naturalization process which includes
    • Determining your eligibility to become an American citizen
    • Preparing and submitting form N-400, the application for naturalization
  • Taking the U.S. Naturalization Test and having a personal interview

Helpful Resources For Citizenship

Take the United States Naturalization Test

One of the requirements in the naturalization process is taking the United States Naturalization Test.

To prepare for the naturalization test, check out these resources:

Certificates of Citizenship and Naturalization

Certificates of Citizenship and Naturalization are proof of your U.S. citizenship.

Get a Certificate of Citizenship or Certificate of Naturalization

Apply for a Certificate of Citizenship if you were born abroad to U.S. citizen parents and they did not obtain a Consular Report of Birth Abroad for you before you turned 18.

Foreign nationals receive a Certificate of Naturalization when they become American citizens. Get certified copies of a Certificate of Naturalization.

 

How hard is it to become a U.S. citizen? Here are three answers to that question from quora.com, an online question-and-answer site:

https://www.quora.com/How-hard-is-it-to-become-a-US-Citizen

Overview

Once you are a permanent resident, then becoming a U.S. citizen is surprisingly straightforward and painless.  It’s getting an immigration visa and permanent residency that’s the hard part.

How difficult that is depends a lot on who you are and where you are from.  If you have money or skills, getting the U.S. visas and permanent residency is not difficult.  If you have neither, it can be impossible.

Joseph Wang, Chief Scientist, Bitquant Research

First, become a permanent resident

This depends largely on how difficult it is for you to first become a permanent resident (i.e., get a green card).  If you’re highly educated and can find work with a sponsoring company, you can expect to attain citizenship in just over five years after becoming a permanent resident.  If you marry a citizen, you can apply for a green card and then attain citizenship in only three years.

However, if you are less educated or cannot find work with a sponsoring company, there’s often no obvious path to becoming a permanent resident.  In the worst case you have little education and no way of getting a sponsoring employer.  In this case, the choice is to either stay out or enter/stay illegally.

The process is … quite tedious and drawn out.  The most difficult part is finding an employer who is willing to work with a candidate throughout the entire process.  The employer will incur substantial costs which serves as a deterrent for many.  Add onto this government-imposed limits on the number of green cards granted per year and you get an immigration system that is tricky to navigate for even those that best equipped to do so.

Christopher Pinchak, permanent resident from the land up north

Several options

Becoming a U.S. citizen is certainly a process, but that doesn’t mean it’s unattainable. There are several moving parts that will influence the best strategy for each individual to obtain citizenship. Let’s break down the core ways that you can become a U.S. citizen.

  • Green Card

If you select the Green Card option, then there are basic requirements you must meet. You have to be at least 18 years old and had your Green Card for at least 5 years.

  • Marry a U.S. Citizen

To qualify under this arrangement, your spouse must have lived in the U.S. for at least 3 years and you must be a Green Card holder for at least 3 years. Additionally, you have to indicate that you have been living as a married couple during this time.

  • Spouse of U.S. Citizen Employed Abroad

If your spouse lives and works in the U.S., but you are employed abroad, you may be able to gain citizenship. There is not minimum time requirement you must meet as a Green Card holder, but you have to prove that you will immediately depart from your abroad location once naturalization occurs.

  • Join the Military

Current military members or certain veterans may be eligible for citizenship due to their service to the country. There is a residency requirement for at least 30 months out of 5 years unless you were stationed abroad due to your military service.

  • Automatic Citizenship Through Birth

The requirements are that both parents were U.S. citizens at the time of your birth and your parents were married at the time of birth, and at least one parent lived in the U.S., or its territories, or both, prior to your birth. If you were born after November 14, 1986, one parent must be a U.S. citizen at the time of birth and your parents were married at the time of birth.

Many people feel incredibly overwhelmed by the citizenship process. It’s lengthy, tedious, and at times discouraging if you don’t have proper resources to guide you.

Raad Ahmed, Founder of LawTrades

These discussions help me understand why Mexicans and others are trying to enter our country illegally. They likely don’t have family members already here, and they don’t appear to have an employer sponsoring them.

According to news reports, many are trying to escape unsafe living conditions at home. They see the United States as a place of refuge.

I’m sure the issue is much more complex than this. Why arrest farm workers already here, people who are trying to contribute to society and working at jobs that tax-paying Americans won’t do?

Is there a way to expand the immigration process to allow for these types of people to enter the United States legally?

How many illegal immigrants want to arrive just to claim welfare benefits? (How many U.S. citizens play that game as well, legally?) Those type of illegal immigrants may get the publicity, but are they a majority?

Make the process easier

Citizenship rules require immigrants to know basic English, among other things. Can our schools, colleges and universities offer this to those who need it? Perhaps community colleges are a great place to teach English as a second language. Many schools already offer this, but perhaps those programs should be expanded.

My point: Can we make the citizenship process easier for those who truly want to become contributing members of our society? Can we enable, encourage, support, assist, offer a hand up (not a hand out) to those who need it?

The United States has 300 million people. There’s room for more here, I’m sure.

The United States is different than other countries. We are newer than most, not much more than 200 years old. Some nations in Europe and Asia have been around for thousands of years. Most Americans are immigrants.

We can’t compare our brief history with the lengthy past that other nations enjoy.

We are our brother’s keeper.

I wish we lived that way – in our daily lives, in addition to our overall status as a nation.

Then, needy people wouldn’t have to break laws to get in, and people with a conscience wouldn’t have to break laws to try to keep them here.

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.

Jesus, in Matthew 7:1-2