Mary Pitt: So You Want To Be A US Citizen
So You Want To Be A US Citizen
by Mary Pitt
My Aunt Tildie has been gone for an extended visit with one of her granddaughters and I thought it would be nice to see her again. I love her active mind, her awareness of whar is going on in the world amd had missed her irrepressible commentary on social problems. As I rang her bell, I could hear the bustle inside as she came to the door, threw it open wide, and motioned me to sit in the usual chair. Without the amenity of the usual offer of a cup of tea or other social protocols, she began telling me what was on her mind.
"Did you see it? Well, did you?" she gushed.
"See what, Aunt Tildie?" I queried, "What are you talking about?"
"The so-called immigrants protesting in the streets demanding their rights and citizenship, as if they had earned them!" she blurted.
"Yes, Aunt Tildie, I saw them but I had no idea that they would upset you so."
The very old lady paused for a deep breath, which she obviously needed, since her face had turned bright red from the excitement and the barrage of words. "Well,"she continued, " there were signs saying, 'I am not a criminal", when by the very fact of having sneaked across the border, they all became criminals, whether that was their intent or not. There were signs demanding 'the vote'! How could they possibly think that they could vote when they have no idea of the issues or the candidates. Besides, we have plenty of voters like that already! That's how we got into this mess in the first place."
"Now, now, Aunt Tildie," I interjected, "I know that you have a real point in there someplace. Suppose you just settle down, collect your thoughts, and tell me what it is about all this that really bothers you."
"You're right, child," (I love it when she calls me "child".) "Suppose we have a cup of tea and I will tell you why I am so irate."
As we sat and stirred our tea, she began again, more quietly. "You know, we have always taken great pride in our nation and our family's service to it, as patriotic as can be, and we revere our founders and the vision they had which was responsible for their creation of a free country, one of law and order, in which we could all work together for the common good. I lost a husband in World War I and a fiancee in the Spanish flu which followed after. Your own brothers and others of my nephews served in World War II, some perished, and others came home with terrible wounds and mental problems, but none of us, including them, ever questioned the rightness of their sacrifice.
"That's what it means to be a citizen of this great country, to love it enough to sacrifice everything for its continuation. We have seen many immigrants from many nations come to our shores. The Africans, of course, had no choice in the matter, being kidnaped and brought in as slaves. but they became as good citizens as any. So did the Irish in fleeing the potato famine, the Jews fleeing persecution in Europe, and all the rest who dreamed for years of a life of freedom and opportunity. They all suffered prejudice and poverty until they learned our language and adapted to the American way of life.
"They were all different, but they had one thing in common. They knocked on the door, so to speak, made application to immigrate and they waited their turn for admission. They filed their papers and were processed according to our laws and, once here, they worked hard at learning our language and our way of doing things until now, when they are part of our common culture and our destiny. This is also true of those of Mexican ancestry whose ancestors were either here at the time of the founding or legally migrated later.
"But these people have broken down our back door and come into our home, taken the food from our children, stolen our jobs, our schools, and our health care, and now they insist that we put their name on the title to the house! It just is not right!"
Sensing the sweet lady becoming more upset, I attempted to mollify her by suggesting that it was an "interesting" way of looking at the problem, but she had not finished. "I saw a show on CNN today. They had a Mexican lady who was working in Georgia. She had sent money home for a smuggler to bring her children over, but they were stopped and sent back. She went back to visit them! She said that she told them that if they wanted her to, she would stay with them, but they wanted her to come back and send for them so they could go to school. Then she cried because she got caught driving without a license and had to pay bail, so that she is now afraid to drive. Doesn't she know that the same thing would happen to me if I were to drive without a license?
"And why doesn't she have a license? Because she is not a citizen! And she is not a citizen because she doesn't belong here! If she had done the proper paperwork and waited in line as so many of her countrymen are doing, she might have been here legally by now, be going to school to learn to speak English, and have her children with her, growing up and learning to be Americans. Or, if she and all the rest like her had stayed in their own country and worked to make the needed changes as our own pioneers did, they might have had an entirely different country and would not need to leave it to better themselves. But that is the problem the world over, Everyone wants what they want NOW! Instant gratification is the order of the day!'
"But, what are we to do with them? The Democrats seem to agree with the President that we need another amnesty because it would be impossible to round them all up and ship them home. There are just too many!", I asked.
"We don't need to round them up and ship them back! We can enforce the law against hiring them. We can forbid the free medical care, the free education for their children so that they will know that they have to go home. We can set a date, three years, five years, while we secure the border, that they have to go home. Have offices ready in Mexico to issue secure identity cards like the ones some states use for food stamps, a swipe card with a secret PIN number. They will have to go back to get the card and then we can keep track of them and know where they are."
"I don't mean to argue with you," I said, "but what do you think of the idea that would make it a felony for churches and charitable agencies to provide assistance to them or to hide them from law enforcement?"
"Heavens no!" she exclaimed, "That's what they do! We don't want to kill them! We just want them to go home and stay there until they have permission to come back to work, but not to stay. There are no problems in this situation that cannot be worked out with compassion and common sense. Even the status of the children born here can be provided for with a little work, cooperation, and thought."
"Well, they don't seem to want to pay their dues for citizenship but think they only have to get here and then, perhaps pay for the privilege," I suggested.
"Pay their dues! I like that expression!" she chortled, "Previous immigrants paid their dues, for sure. Long before they came here, they applied for visas and then they waited, sometimes for years. During that time, they studied and they planned. They knew that they must know some English and so they studied; they read and talked to people who had been here; they considered which part of this great land would suit them better for climate and have work that they knew how to do. They didn't just throw a pack on their back and sneak across the border in the middle of the night to come here and just take whatever they want!
"Then they come out and parade in our streets under a Mexican flag and claim that they were here first! These people not only do not know a thing about the history of the United States; they don't know much of their own history! First, only the indigenous people of the Southwest and Northern Mexico were 'here first'. The rest are descended from the Conquistadores from Spain just as we come from the Northern Europeans. They also conveniently forget that the United States won the Mexican War! American soldiers took the entire country but, finding nobody with the authority to surrender, the President declared Mexico 'ungovernable', called the soldiers home, re-drew the boundary lines of the United States to the present configuration, and 'declared peace'!"
"That's interesting, Aunt Tildie," I responded, "I grew up in an area that was developed during the Mexican War but never studied much about it while I was in school."
"That's because there wasn't much to it! The Mexicans, under the French and Spanish rulers, had resented our taking of Texas and decided to take it back. In the process of trying, they were totally over-run, a new government was formed, and we lived in peace with them until the present day. But then, globalization took over our own government and they began making treaties like GATT, NAFTA, and CAFTA, American factories moved to Mexico's cheap labor and then, on to Southeast Asia. Their President Fox got together with President Bush and decided that an 'open-borders' policy was a good idea. Mexico virtually abandoned responsibility for their own economy and the welfare of their people. Now the people, having seen the American dream, have decided that it is theirs for the taking and our government has done nothing to stop them.
"One would think, given the seriousness of the situation, that our government could have increased the number of Green Cards that were issued to relieve the pressure, but administration decided to just let it happen! The Republican base were thrilled at the opportunity to obtain cheap labor Aunder the table@ with no benefits and no insurance. This President appears to have no respect whatever for the traditional way of doing things or for the laws that were established for the purpose of establishing an orderly manner of society. He views himself not as an elected agent of the people, but as an absolute monarch! Saddam Hussein would not disarm fast enough to suit George W. Bush so we are now butchering millions of men, women, and children in Iraq, all over nothing at all, and soon it will be happening in Iran. While we are 'fighting them over there', we have been invaded by millions of civilian Mexicans who have no loyalty for our country other than the fulfillment of their own needs."
"Yes, child," she concluded, "I am afraid that the American as we have known him has become a dying breed. Politics and personal gain has trumped patriotism and national sacrifice for the common good. Good old American common sense has gine the way of the dodo. Those who knew the way of life of a few years ago will pass on and the youth and immigrants will become the guides for a nation that will become prey for the other greedy nations. We will go the way of ancient Greece, just history and ruins. It makes me sad and very, very tired."
Not being willing to have the beloved old lady further upset by a discussion of the progress of the "world war on terror", I excused myself and left her, still deep in thought, nodding, in her rocking chair.
Aunt Tildie always leaves me with food for thought and I often enjoy it, but this spoonful of truth will not allow the strongest of antacids to cure the ache that it has put in my belly.