Let’s begin our Idiot’s Guide To Legal Immigration.
Unless you’ve been directly involved in the immigration process, most Americans don’t understand how legal immigration works. By immigration, I refer here to both the acquisition of Permanent Resident status (a Green Card), and Citizenship, two categories which are distinct from each other.
However, in all practicalities, there are few differences which matter to the “average” immigrant these days, and the only distinction which motivates Green Card holders to advance to Citizenship might be good for the immigrant, but not necessarily for the United States.
What can a Permanent Resident do and not do?
A Permanent Resident can’t vote. He (okay feminists, or she) is under international travel restrictions as to the number of trips and their duration, to ensure the Permanent Resident is serious about being a permanent resident.
A Permanent Resident can’t get a U.S. Passport, and can’t be called for Jury Duty (which for whatever crazy reason, I don’t see many of them complaining about). They also can’t petition family members abroad to join them.
A Permanent Resident can of course work here, collect welfare and other social assistance (including Social Security in all its forms), and they must pay taxes. They can get a Driver’s License (just like illegals can in so many municipalities!), they can sue and be sued, and they can usually keep their original citizenship. They can also serve in the military.
They can live in the U.S. for the rest of their lives under Permanent Resident status, as long as they don’t kill anyone. Then, they might get deported.
What does a Permanent Resident have to do and know to become one?
Besides filling out the paperwork, nothing. As long as you don’t have a criminal record in your home country, or your home country is so dysfunctional that the U.S. can’t accurately assess your criminal history, you don’t have to know a thing.
You don’t have to speak a word of English, you can think there are only 13 states, that Kim Kardashian is President, and childhood female circumcision is just fine and dandy. (I’ll take two, Mohammed! My younger one is still in the car!)
You don’t have to know a damn thing to come here and live here for the rest of your life under Permanent Resident status. It’s not just that you don’t have to show any knowledge about joining the American culture, you don’t have to demonstrate, at any level at all, that you even want to.
You can continue speaking Farsi to your Taiwanese neighbor, you don’t have to keep your goat off his lawn, and you can scream Allah Akbar until you’re blue in the face, not understanding that makes many of us uncomfortable.
Why does a Permanent Resident become a Citizen?
Many do it to become real Americans. They love us and want to be us. These people, we all adore. Unfortunately, too many do it just to sponsor family members to bring over, the dreaded chain migration that Trump is trying to stop. (These new Americans have no desire to vote or do Jury Duty, I assure you.)
The test/questions for Citizenship are pitifully inadequate and irrelevant, consisting of basic civic questions (1776, the War of 1812, George Washington) and probe nothing about the real “heart” of America. Instead of asking which states border Canada, they should ask questions which refer to American values, knowledge of cultures different to those of the applicant’s home country, even questions referring to current political issues. For example:
How many illegal immigrants are estimated to currently reside in the United States? (Check one of the below.)
When was the last time you called someone a Jew Bastard? (Fill in date.)
Do you approve of honor killings? (Check yes or no.)
It’s time to move our 19th Century immigrant vetting processes into the 21st Century, or at least start talking about it more, because what we have now sure isn’t working to make us one people. Because of the language barriers, and their ignorance of our political and social do’s and don’ts, we’ve created an underclass of people just sitting on the sidelines, looking in, and staying at the bottom.
At the very least, we should put much more emphasis on the character and spirit of America (with that special emphasis on assimilation) in our immigration processes, so before anyone takes one more step off that plane, they understand that we’re dead serious about it.