Friday, July 6, 2012

Word of the Day: IMMIGRATION

We've been hearing a lot of rhetoric for the past several years regarding illegal immigration, which I define as people coming here to work and live illegally...and employers who hire them illegally. I have some comments on the issue.

First off, let's get semantics out of the way.  A number of years ago, former Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich said that there are no illegal individuals.  My understanding was that he, too, was addressing semantics.  True, an individual is not illegal; what that individual does is illegal.  That is why you hear of people being convicted of crimes, not of themselves.  (If people were convicted of themselves, it would seem the population would drop off pretty quickly.)

I believe Mr. Kucinich's point was regarding the term "illegal immigrant". Okay, fair enough.  No, there are no illegal individuals.  However, what they do is illegal.  Whether you use "illegal immigrant" or "immigrant who is here illegally" is, to me, nothing more than semantics.  They are here illegally.  Period.  If they are hired by employers, and I don't care if they are paid "under the table" or are on the payroll, then the employers are also breaking the law.  Period.

I recently read an article about several dozen persons who were sworn in as American citizens on or close to July 4th.  You could tell, by the words they used, that they were joyful and proud to be naturalized American citizens.  I can only imagine how that must feel.  I remember both my father and mother telling me about how my father's parents, who were immigrants to this country, felt overjoyed when they became U.S. citizens.  My grandfather became a citizen first because my grandmother had a harder time with learning the English language.  She hung in there, learned it well enough, and felt pride once again when she, too, became a citizen of the United States of America.  My grandparents did what they needed to do, as did those in the article who were sworn in as citizens, and they became part of this country.

One piece of the illegal immigration rhetoric that I find confusing (and, I admit, irritating) is the following phrase, or something close to it: "We need to create a path to citizenship."  Let me start with that statement at face value.  When you say "create a path" and not "create another path" or "create a new path", you are saying that no previous path exists.  It seems to me that such a statement would be false...just look at those new U.S. citizens or my grandparents for your proof.  For further reading, check out this link about the naturalization process and this link about Ellis Island.  Better yet, ask someone who became a naturalized U.S. citizen about his/her experience and how he/she felt.

Let's assume that those who use this "create a path" terminology really mean another or new.  I would ask, "Really?"  If you mean "another", then tell me how the naturalization process already in place is insufficient that having an additional path is necessary.  If you mean "new", then tell me how the naturalization process already in place has completely failed this country that replacing it is necessary.  I have heard lots of people tout how great it would be and how it is the right thing to do.  I have heard no one explain clearly the necessity of another or a new immigration process being implemented.

As a side note, speaking of semantics, I have had my fill of people using the terms "immigrant" and "illegal immigrant" interchangeably, or as though they are the same thing.  Neither those newly-naturalized U.S. citizens days ago nor my grandparents nearly 100 years ago are/were illegal immigrants in this country!  What they went through is the kind of immigration that made this country great.

It may seem that I fall in either one or another category politically.  I am not interested in falling into, or standing squarely in, one political category or another; I couldn't care less about that.  An old saying, though, comes to mind on this issue: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.  Maybe a number of people actually think that the United States' naturalization process is broken...

...or maybe, in reality, something else is.


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