Who Should Become a US Citizen? How Long Should They Have to Wait?
Two nice items from the Washington Post that go nicely together. First up: Why our nation’s founders decided that even those who fought against the American Revolutionaries deserved to become citizens.
Who deserves to be a U.S. citizen?
It’s a question President Obama and Congress are trying to answer. But it’s also one we’ve been grappling with since our country’s earliest days. The founders had a clear answer: People who immigrated and spent years building lives in this country deserved citizenship. They were also keenly aware that making new immigrants wait a long time for citizenship denied them the very rights that Americans had just fought to claim for themselves.
Ultimately, the founders recognized that they needed to avoid re-creating the circumstances that led us to rebel against the British in the first place: taxation without representation. Jefferson argued fervently against creating a class of semi-citizens that would have no political voice and persuaded his fearful peers to settle on a relatively short probationary period.
Of course, there were notable exceptions to the founders’ rule that time, physical presence and good moral character were sufficient to earn the rights of citizenship: Women, indentured servants and many racial minorities weren’t eligible. Each of these cases is now a source of national shame. So, too, is the indefinite delay or denial of citizenship to today’s immigrant workers and their families.
Read the whole thing here: Should Illegal Immigrants Become Citizens? Let’s Ask the Founding Fathers.
As a followup: How long are prospective citizens being made to wait?
Both President Obama and the Senate’s Gang of Eight agree: If undocumented immigrants want to get legal status, they’ll have to ‘get in the back of the line’ of those who’ve already gone through legal channels to immigrate to this country. But what is this line? And exactly how long is it?
‘There are so many different lines. It’s very hard for people to understand that there are so many different categories and that each wait time is different,’ says Mary Giovagnoli, director of the Immigration Policy Council. As of November, there were 4.3 million people on the wait list for family-based visas and 113,058 waiting for employment-based visas — nearly 4.5 million in the overall backlog.
Legislators are also raising the stakes for fixing the legal immigration system by tying it directly to the fate of undocumented immigrants: Unless the line of legal immigration speeds up, the illegal immigrants will be languishing without citizenship, as well. While more resources could help cut some of the red tape slowing down the process, such measures alone wouldn’t be enough to reduce the backlog in a meaningful way, says Giovagnoli. ‘At some level, you can’t speed it up if Congress doesn’t have more visas.’
Immigration advocates worry that the promise of citizenship could end up being ‘in name only’ for some undocumented immigrants. ‘Instead of dying in the desert, they might just die waiting to become permanent residents,’ concludes Paparelli.
Read the whole article here: How long is the immigration ‘line’? As long as 24 years.
The best course for our country will be to legitimize as many of our long-term residents as we can, as fast as we can. Those who don’t mind a perpetual ‘guest-worker’ status for millions of people are contradicting the ideals this country was founded on.