I have a special place in my heart for those who want to live in the United States of America. I am a naturalized American citizen. I immigrated from Canada. I did it the legal way, made application, had a job waiting, spent my years as a legal alien and took the classes required for citizenship. Finally, the time came for me to take the oath to become an American. It was a great day for me and my family. I even returned to Canada to go to school and work for a few years, but refused to give up my citizenship. I had to renounce either Canada or the U.S. Dual citizenship was not available to me as it is to others. I am not completely sure why I wasn't allowed dual citizenship, but for me, it was not a difficult choice. I wanted to be an American.
When I meet others who have come to this country, I am always interested to know the why and the how of their journey. I have met people who have had to flee persecution, both political and religious. I have talked to others who believe that only in America can one truly reach their dreams. No matter what the reason, the U.S. has an incredible pull for many people of other nations. Even as I've travelled in Europe, Africa, Central America, Mexico and many foreign nation's islands, I have heard over and over the same words; "I want to go to America." No matter what I seem to hear about how hated we are across the globe, there is a desire in many individuals to live within our borders. The dream of our land of opportunity is alive and well, regardless of what we hear on the News or see in video of our flag being desecrated in other lands. By accident of birth or Divine plan, not everyone can live here legally. Thus we have those who sneak in and try to build a life without detection. Somehow that seems unfair.
If you've lived on this Earth for any time at all, I know you are very aware that life is not fair. No where have I found claims life will be fair. Some seem to have it all. Even the poorest of American residents have a vastly better life than many in third world nations. I have seem poverty beyond my comprehension in Africa, Mexico and Central America. There are places around the world where people die for lack of fresh water, from curable diseases and starvation easily ended for less money than some American families spend on fast food for a year. When I was in South Africa I visited little towns that are populated with families dying of HIV/Aids. They live in dwellings smaller than most living rooms in American middle class houses. The floors are dirt and the window has no screen, some are lucky to have a front door. Yet, the people take pride in their tiny homes and keep them neat and organized with sparse belongings. They decorate their yards in the most clever ways. I saw one house that had old hub caps painted and strung together. Another used plastic flowers to add color to the yard. Not one blade of grass grows in entire villages, but the dirt yards were swept and leveled to present a neat appearance. One town I visited had a school for the children of dying parents. The children were amazing. The entire community was built around the school, because they believe education is the only hope for a future for their kids. Everyone I spoke with said the same thing; "I want to go to America." There is little hope for these people and they believe if they could just find a way to the land of opportunity, everything would be better. I wanted to take them back home when we left.
In Mexico, there are people who live in garbage dumps. Children without parents beg for Pesos. Shanty towns made of cardboard and tin are everywhere. You cannot miss the swollen bellies of hungry toddlers with the blank stares of the dying. In India there are villages of people near death due to lack of water. There is a well within walking distance, but they are guarded by armed men who will shoot to kill if one of the outsiders attempts to appraoch. A group from a local church recently collected $5000 to dig a well for a town of ten thousand, they literally saved their lives. Water: something as simple and readily available in the U.S. is a matter of life and death in countless areas throughout the world. As a restaurant owner in Texas, I wouldn't have survived if not for my Hispanic immigrant employees. Most of them worked full time for me doing everything from cooking to busing tables. My place was just one of their jobs. Some of my guys had another full time job, most had three. All unskilled labor, but the pride they took in their work was incredible. I had born and raised Americans working the front of the house, but the back was staffed with immigrants. What wonderful men. In Canada, I met immigrants from Pakistan and India. Back home they were doctors, professionals, well educated and skilled. They knew that leaving their homeland would result in a huge loss of status. But they came anyway, working as cab drivers or clerks and often immigrating through Canada first in the hope of coming to the States. One day, some day, any way they could, all they could speak of was their American dreams.
I have never seen a line of humanity trying to flee the U.S., but there is a very long line trying to enter. There are those desperate enough to cross our borders illegally. The wait for legal immigration is long and no guarantee of entrance. The line to come over in secret is long, but it moves quickly, even with the dangers it brings. We are left with a huge problem in our nation. The problem of illegal immigration. Millions (some estimate as high as 20 million) have entered the U.S. illegally, built lives, found an income source, had children and learned to survive while constantly looking over their shoulders for Immigration Officials to find them and send them back. Yet, in all they suffer, in all the fear of being found out, with all the less then upright individuals who help many cross our borders, they are greeted by screams of "Go home!" by Americans. Almost all of us are immigrants or the children, grandchildren or great grandchildren of immigrants. We accuse them of taking our jobs, using our social services to survive and call them criminals. By definition, they are, they are in the U.S. illegally. However, I find the desire to survive and find a better life a far cry from a criminal act. Many would disagree, but then those who disagree have never faced the kind of lives many who would do anything to live here have had to endure.
Following is a outline of a plan to change the status of current illegal immigrants residing in the U.S. to date. It is not as simple as amnesty. The plan has rules to adhere to and consequences for those who choose not to follow the rules. I think we all agree we need a solution. This one is the best I've heard to date. Most importantly, it's workable, fair and realistic. While you read the overview, think of how blessed you are to live here, in the United States of America. Think about dirt floors, no available medical attention, lack of food and water, men with guns walking your streets, killing innocents in the name of genocide or drugs. Think about these people as human beings, just like you, who only want a chance for a better life. If it was me, I would take it. Oh wait, I did. I became a U.S. citizen and Canada is not exactly Aids ridden Africa or drug cartel ruled Mexico.
IMMIGRATION PLAN OVERVIEW (granted, it is not perfect or fully formed, but with thought and effort and a few additions, it sounds feasible)
1) All people who have entered the U.S. illegally must register with the government within a specified period of time. If they fail to register by the date to be decided upon, they will face immediate deportation.
2) Any person who has been convicted of a felony will not qualify for landed immigrant status and be deported immediately.
3) All registered illegal immigrants 18 years of age or older must do one of the following: a) Commit 8 years to working in a non-paid community service project to be specified. Amount of hours per month to be determined. Or, b) All who qualify and choose option B will serve 6 years in a branch of our Armed Forces.
4) All minors must be enrolled in school and complete high school in good standing.
5) If any registered individual commits a felony during the time period of service to the U.S. they will be immediately deported.
6) Before this program begins, all borders will be secured and anyone entering after the date will be immediately deported.
7) Each State will be responsible for implementing registration and assigning service positions. Once an individual is registered they are required to remain in the State of registration until the service requirement is met, not including Armed Forces volunteers who will be under the supervision of the U.S. military branch in which they enlist.
8) Once the program has begun all other means of immigration will be sent through proper channels. Anchor babies, dry landings and other amnesty laws will cease.
9) Once the years of service requirement has been met, each individuals status is changed to Landed Immigrant status and they must live for the required 8 years as such before applying for U.S. citizenship.
I think this could work. I agree, there are issues of costs, enforcement and sealing the borders, to name a few. I do think with time, thought and adjustment, it is a workable idea. The bottom line is something has to be done to solve this issue. How do we send almost 20 million people home? The logistics seem huge, but deportation would not be any easier and many of our visitors would be an asset to our nation. If you have heard a better plan, please tell us. The problem will only get worse with time. Action must be taken now. It is already overwhelming.