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

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Hamilton: Early lessons still apply

I just finished reading Alexander Hamilton, the 731-page opus that the current Broadway play is based on. Author Ron Chernow claims, with extensive research, that Hamilton was one of the nation’s most influential founders. He was George Washington’s right-hand man, among many other things.

I underlined various phrases, sentences and quotes throughout the book, published in 2004, that seem applicable even today. I haven’t seen the play, but if it’s anything like the book, it’s easy to relate to, as well as a wonderful history lesson.

I’ve divided the applicable parts of Hamilton into nearly a dozen themes, which should give me plenty of fodder for this post and several upcoming ones. Perhaps we as Americans can understand a little of who we are today based on how we began as a nation.

Here’s the first theme I’ll discuss:

The authority of central government

… (Hamilton’s) encounters with the two obdurate (American) generals (in 1877, at age 22) strengthened his preference for strict hierarchy and centralized command as the only way to accomplish things – a view that was to find its political equivalent in his preference for concentrated federal power instead of authority dispersed among the states. (p. 103)

hamilton book

Hamilton, as a top aide to General George Washington in battles against the invading British, ran into two American generals who didn’t respect Washington’s leadership. Washington supported his youthful aide’s admonishment of the “obdurate generals,” both of whom refused Washington’s requests to send some of their troops to help him in New Jersey.

The future of the nascent nation was in serious doubt at this point, and Washington hadn’t yet earned the respect that would eventually propel him to become our first president. The British – and the French – had strongholds on our soil, and Washington needed all the help he could get to establish the Union.

 

… the Constitution transcended state governments and directly expressed the will of the American people. Hence, the Constitution began “We the People of the United States” and was ratified by special conventions, not state legislatures. (p. 574)

 

The division between federal and states’ rights provided one of the first debates in our country. It wasn’t a simple discussion then, and it still isn’t today. Immigration, same-sex marriage, legalization of marijuana: Are these federal or state issues?

How about standards for public education? Road repairs? Police issues?

Who gets the final say?

In 2017 on illegal immigration, the federal government gets the final say. Here’s stories of two undocumented immigrants, one of whom in Willard, Ohio, was deported to Mexico this morning (July 18, 2017) and the other in Ann Arbor, Mich., who faces deportation, also to Mexico, on Aug. 2.

 

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2017/07/willard_father_says_goodbye_to.html

http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2017/07/ann_arbor_council_takes_stand.html

 

Both have families in the United States, and have lived here for well over a decade. The stories are gut-wrenching, and that’s the media’s point. Policies affect specific people.

But officials of the federal government, in the form of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), see the bigger picture. In the Ohio case, as reported by Cleveland.com:

 

According to ICE, “Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly has made it clear that ICE will no longer exempt any class of individuals from removal proceedings if they are found to be in the country illegally.”

 

That’s two sides of the same coin: Living in the U.S. illegally while at the same time contributing to society here.

Which side should prevail?

Hamilton most likely would have sided with the Trump administration on this issue:

 

Hamilton probably had the gravest doubts about the wisdom of the masses and wanted elected leaders who would guide them. This was the great paradox of his career: his optimistic view of America’s potential coexisted with an essentially pessimistic view of human nature. His faith in Americans never quite matched his faith in America itself. (p. 232)

 

In the same vein is this quote later on in the book:

 

“… it is long since I have learnt to hold popular opinion of no value.” (p. 476)

 

Why did Hamilton have this paradox? He felt that he knew how best to run the new country, which angered his opponents. (Hamilton was a federalist and his opponents, led by Thomas Jefferson and others, were republicans, by the way.) He studied European models extensively, even though he never visited Europe, and read voraciously about numerous topics – finance, politics, government, military force, the judiciary and many others.

 

If politics is preeminently the art of compromise, then Hamilton was in some ways poorly suited for his job. He wanted to be a statesman who led courageously, not a politician who made compromises. Instead of proceeding with small, piecemeal measures, he had presented a gigantic package of fiscal measures that he wanted accepted all at once. (p. 324)

 

Hamilton had proposed an extensive, detailed system of banking, finance and public debt that intertwined with each other, that once established became impossible to overturn or replace. This might be Hamilton’s greatest legacy today. (More on that in a future post.) His economic system required federal oversight since its scope was so broad, and states’ rights advocates opposed it on those grounds.

Jefferson was one of Hamilton’s primary antagonists throughout his political career.

 

“I own I am not a friend to a very energetic government,” (Jefferson) told (James) Madison. “It is always oppressive.” (p. 311)

 

One of those oppressive acts was enacted during John Adams’ presidency at the end of the 18th century. Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts that did four things:

  • They lengthened from five to 14 years the period necessary to become a naturalized citizen with full voting rights.
  • The president was given the power to deport, without a hearing or even a reasonable explanation, any foreign-born residents deemed dangerous to the peace.
  • The president was given the power to label as enemy aliens any residents who were citizens of a country at war with America, prompting an outflow of French emigres.
  • It became a crime to speak or publish “any false, scandalous or malicious” writings against the U.S. government or Congress “with intent to defame … or to bring them … into contempt or disrepute,” with the guilty facing a stiff fine and a prison sentence. (p. 570)

Sound familiar?

Less than a month ago, the U.S. Supreme Court enacted a temporary travel ban for certain people from six primarily Muslim countries, which President Donald Trump has declared as terrorism hot-spots. The court is to take up the issue again in October.

In 1798, Hamilton supported the Alien and Sedition Acts – even though he himself was an immigrant, born in the British West Indies. He was upset with the writings of certain foreign-born journalists, to the point that he was willing to support radical measures to silence them.

Jefferson took the high road.

 

Jefferson professed a serene faith that the common sense of the people would rectify such errors. (p. 572)

 

Eventually, Jefferson’s faith prevailed.

Whether Hamilton’s harsh view of public opinion or “the common sense of the people,” in Jefferson’s words, will prevail in today’s political climate remains to be seen.