It's one of my favorite issues. I've been debating it with a few college friends, and I've developed some ideas that I hope to work into an op-ed piece in time for the 4th of July holiday.
Don't worry, I have plenty of video from my trip to share with you. I'm planning to edit it and post it on the web when I get home, which should be this weekend.
Until then, tell me what you think of the ideas below:
Listen, nothing is given to immigrants--NOTHING--except the chance to work for the American Dream. That's the only reason why they're here, and that's why they will give our children a run for the money when they enter the workforce. They don't qualify for public housing. They don't get welfare benefits. If they receive health care, it is through the generosity of doctors and hospitals (notice that I used the words "generosity," "doctors," and "hospitals" in the same sentence!)
I have a Albanian friend, Toni, who would give his right arm to come to America and work 15 hours a day washing pans in a pizza kitchen. He registers for the visa lottery every year. He prays. He begs me for help. Frankly, I wish he would come.
You see, guys, if we were to move to Germany or Saudi Arabia or China and worked real hard, kept jobs, raised families and participated in society--even if we legally immigrated--we would never, ever have the chance of becoming Germans, Saudis or Chinese. We would always be considered foreigners, even our children.
The cool thing about being an American (unless you're a racist), is that it isn't really something that you're entitled to, it's something that you earn. The Ditteses were immigrants once. Racists tried to imply that we were terrorists during a time of war (World War I) and attacked our neighbors who had more German-sounding names, but we kept our heads down, we worked, and we gained the right to be called Americans.
(Honestly, can anyone provide one example of a terrorist from 9/11 or any other case coming across the border with Mexico illegally? There was the one that the Clinton Administration caught coming in from Canada, but the speculation of such an occurrence is race-baiting, I believe.)
Frankly, I think citizenship should be merit-based, mainly so I can get Toni into the country. If ungrateful, wealthy Americans don't like paying taxes, having them turn in their passports and move to Brazil or Bolivia, where taxes are lower. If a kid chooses to drop out of high school, give his/her place to an ambitious Nigerian girl and let them move to a country where the dropout rate is above 50%. If someone quit their restaurant dishwashing job because they had a hangover or didn't feel like getting out of bed, we should push them over the border with Mexico in a fair exchange for someone who will work.
It's a sign of the decline of our society that we are falling back on useless standards like race and legal status to define what American citizenship really is. The future doesn't belong to those who whine about immigration. It belongs, as it always has, to people who are willing to work hard and build this country into something better.
Incidentally, I'm a day away from the end of my trip now. We did the long, 600-mile drive today from Leadville, Colorado, to Lawrence, Kansas. At two points along the way (once in Colorado and once in Kansas) I spotted billboards advertising "Free Land" to people willing to emigrate there and farm/work!
What would someone from Albania or Nigeria think of this? They would think they had died and gone to heaven. What did this American think of it? I thought, "Who would want to live all the way out there? I don't even know how to do anything with my hands."