05/30/06 — A bill done right: Most Americans want rules for immigrants to be same for all

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A bill done right: Most Americans want rules for immigrants to be same for all

It seems hard to believe that so many members of Congress do not get why so many of their constituents don’t want to see a candy-coated immigration bill.

In fact, these same lawmakers seem shocked when polls indicate that Americans see red when they hear about amnesty for the millions of illegal immigrants who are already here.

This is the land of the free and the home of the brave, they say, why shouldn’t we welcome these people who want to be part of our country? Isn’t that the American way — a beacon of freedom for the huddled masses?

Yes, it is, but that is not really the point.

Immigrants helped build this nation. They struggled and sacrificed to create lives and livelihoods for their families for centuries here. They have been valuable contributors to who we are and what we will become as a country and as a people.

But most of them came over the right way. They made their way to Ellis Island and went through the process or, in more modern times, applied to become citizens through the naturalization process, waiting their turn to take the oath. They studied, learned our language and joined our workforce. They did not give up their heritage and traditions, they made those part of their new experience here. They added much to the fabric of the communities they chose to call their own. But even though their histories remained important to them, most became Americans.

And they did it on their own.

Spanish-speaking immigrants who want to a chance to be American citizens — and who would like to create new lives in this country — should take a look at the examples past immigrants have set.

They should learn our language, learn our ways and then work hard to earn the right to be citizens of this country. They should wait in line like everyone else and complete the requirements as others have before them.

They do not have a right to citizenship here, anymore than an American who crossed the border could demand to be a citizen in their country. That is a privilege.

Simply being here for a number of years does not make someone entitled to the designation of “citizen.” That comes with the completion of the requirements deemed necessary by the country in which you wish to live.

There is nothing wrong with having standards for being able to use the term — American.

And that is what Americans want their leaders to know. We want citizenship in this country to mean something — and for those who earn it to treasure it.

We are proud to be Americans, and we want those who come here looking to become citizens to be, too. That respect only comes when citizenship is a reward, not a gift.

Published in Editorials on May 30, 2006 10:56 AM