04/09/14 — For granted: Country's newest citizens have most appreciation

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For granted: Country's newest citizens have most appreciation

When Americans talk about immigrants -- especially these days, the word "illegal" is usually associated with the conversation.

After all, there seem to be more than a few issues associated with the term and the numbers, which are increasing exponentially across this nation.

Like it or not, there are issues that go along with illegal immigration and undocumented workers are just one of those problems.

And politicians themselves seem to be feeling the heat. Faced with the likelihood of continued increases in the number of immigrants coming across the U.S./Mexico border, and worries about voter numbers in future elections, many political wannabes are coming up with all kinds of rhetoric and promises to placate -- or to keep -- the Hispanic minority, just in case.

But there is another segment of the immigrant population -- and they come from diverse backgrounds.

These are the men and women who did the work, who took the test and who can now, legally, call themselves American citizens.

Their stories are often ones of sacrifice and a desire to escape oppression or danger. And they are often courageous people who gave up much to find new lives in a new country.

But more than anything else, most of them are appreciative of the freedom they have found here.

And that is what we could learn from them.

Many immigrants are flabbergasted that Americans do not understand how good they have it. They know how precious freedom is from living in countries where there is little to none.

They value the chance to make their own way and to have a say in their own futures. They appreciate what it means to be an American.

It is sad so many of those who were born here cannot say the same.

Perhaps instead of worrying about those who choose not to pursue citizenship and who do not make the effort to become citizens, we should celebrate those who have made a commitment to the country that has given them a chance to change their lives.

That is the melting pot that built this country.

And if we plan to address the issue of illegal immigrants in the U.S., perhaps we could offer them the chance to make that same commitment -- or to get the proper paperwork that allows them to work here without making the decision to renounce their allegiance to another country.

Citizenship and the rights that go along with it should not be a free lunch. Otherwise, neither has any value.

It is only fair -- to this nation and to those who have waited years to call themselves "American citizens."

Published in Editorials on April 9, 2014 10:35 AM