All Citizens are American. Not all Americans are Citizens.

April 16, 2018

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”  --Excerpt from Emma Lazarus’, The New Colossus.

 

My view on immigration reform in our state, as well as our country, may be considered ‘radical’ when compared to those of my political opponents. As a Mexican-American who was born and raised in Miami, Florida, I grew up in an environment where English was not the first-language (in some cases, not even the second) of many of my friends and neighbors. We can start by trying to understand what being an American means. As the title of this post implies, I believe there is an incredible number of people who live among us that are Americans—but not citizens.

 

As I grew up in the neighborhoods of Southwest Miami, a vast majority of the adults, and sometimes even their children, had come from elsewhere to call the United States home. This case is not unique to my childhood, nor is it unique to Miami. This is the case for many families in Maryland and across the country. There are people who come to America and devote every moment of their lives to this country. There are people who have come here leaving everything and everyone they know to tie their entire future to their interpretation of the American Dream. There are non-citizens who wear the uniform of the United States armed forces, some of whom I served with while in the Army. Some of these brave men and women gave their lives in defense of a country that was only theirs in their heart and mind. There are people who come to the United States and work for incredibly low wages, bypassing benefits and safe working environments to make the best possible living in a country they wish to build a life in.

 

I am a firm believer that our government should work as hard as it must to give these Americans a pathway to rightful citizenship. We must be as inclusive as possible.  

 

“Harry, are you crazy? Do you want ALL immigrants to have a simplified pathway to citizenship?”

 

America has a tradition of welcoming immigrants. I can be certain that everyone reading this has an ancestor that came to the United States to build a life of prosperity for themselves—and eventually—for you. I’m sure that for many of you, those ancestors did not have the paperwork or visas to properly do so. Not ALL immigrants should be granted a simplified pathway to citizenship, but the only exclusions would be those who have committed crimes, or those who are deemed to be a threat. These are clear, legitimate reasons to bar someone from obtaining U.S. Citizenship.

 

According to the American Immigration Council, Maryland has a large immigrant community, much of which emigrated from El Salvador. From a 2017 study, here is Maryland by the numbers:

 

  • More than 1 in 7 Maryland residents is an immigrant, while 1 in 9 is a native-born U.S. citizen with at least 1 immigrant parent

  • In 2015, 911,582 immigrant made up 15.2% of Maryland’s population

  • Top countries of origin:El Salvador (13.2%), India (6.8%), China (4.6%), Mexico (4.5%), and Nigeria (4.4%)

  • In 2016, 664,582 people were native-born Americans who had at least 1 immigrant parent

 

In our communities, non-Christian immigrants have received considerably harsher criticisms and treatment. The immigration issues we face are not only based on culture or language, but there is a great divide in acceptance of the religious beliefs of these people. With this, I will close by a passage from Leviticus 19:33-34, “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you love him as yourself for you were strangers in the land of Egypt:  I am the Lord your God.”

 

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© Harry Freeman 2018. Sponsored by Harry E. Freeman