An 'Alien' Patriot

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I
believe that I'm a patriot. No, not the kind that has been waiving
flags cheering for the war and for the American Empire, but the
other kind, those who seek the re-establishment of the constitution
of the United States and the governing of this country by
the people and for the people.

However,
I'm usually not allowed to express my views because I'm not (yet)
a citizen of the United States. It is one thing to express discontentment
with the government when one is a citizen of this country, but as
an immigrant, forget it; it's nearly impossible.

And
yes, I've heard it several times ever since I moved to Louisiana
in 1995, and much more frequently since September 11. It's all over
the media nowadays and, in a few words, it goes something like this:
"if foreigners are not happy with our policies, they can just
go home." Never mind that for some of us, home may be here
now.

In
a way, I am currently seeking an answer to what is an “American”
so that in time (when I'm eligible), I can say an educated “I do,”
or not. Most Americans, however, expect immigrants to become citizens
first and ask questions later. They quickly forget that Freedom
of Speech applies to all who stand on this land, not just citizens.

Grant
you, I'm not your typical alien. When I moved here, I could speak,
read, and write English and I already had a college degree under
my belt. I came here on a student visa and at the time, I did not
know how long I would stay in the U.S. nor I did I think that I
would ever consider becoming a citizen, which I do now.

My
other option is to remain a Canadian citizen, legally residing in
the United States. After all, there's nothing like a good old Canadian
Passport, especially if one likes to travel. Canadians tend to be
liked wherever they go and I hear the beaches are great in Cuba!

One
of the first thing I learned dealing with the INS is that no matter
where you come from or what language you speak, you do get treated
like an alien. All my encounters with immigration people, except
for the last, were unpleasant at best.

The
second thing I learned about when I went to the international student
office at my university was the green card lottery (http://www.us-immigration.org/gclot.htm).
This lottery is held every year by the government and by paying
a small fee, you can enter your name and have a chance to "win"
a green card. What does this mean? According to the INS web site
"This visa class entitles the holder to live and work
in the United States of America permanently." (emphasis
is mine)

Every
year, the U.S. government gives away 55 000 green cards from people
all over the world, however, Canadians cannot even enter the lottery,
so that was the end of that for me.

A
few months later, I met two young men who had received green cards
through the lottery program from a country in Asia. They both worked
in a fast-food restaurant in the local mall earning minimum wage
and neither could speak English. To me, who was working hard in
graduate school and who spoke English with almost no accent, the
whole process seemed nothing but unfair.

However,
in the past couple of years, as I've educated myself about this
country and the government, I began to understand why such programs
make sense, at least from a Washington point of view. The government
has no interest in giving green cards to people like me who can
be productive citizens right away, but they have every reason to
do so with people who will come here and become dependent on their
services for years to come. By services I mean special English courses,
bilingual programs in tax-funded schools, and whatever assistance
programs they can come up with to resolve the perceived immigration
and multiculturalism problems they created in the first place. The
lottery is just one small example of how they do that.

Another
example can be found in how they educate immigrants into becoming
"good citizens."

When
you apply for citizenship, you have to be able to pass a written
examination filled with questions about the history and the workings
of the U.S. government. Immigrants get a practice copy of the test
when they receive their green cards so they can prepare themselves.
The sample test has 100 questions with the answers printed on the
back.

So
what does it teach?

With
the questionnaire, immigrants learn that the "duties of Congress"
is to "make laws." However, they don't learn that "Congress
shall make no laws respecting an establishment of religion, of prohibiting
the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or
the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and
to petition the government for a redress of grievance."

They
learn that Abraham Lincoln "freed the slaves" but they
do not learn how he did it or why he did it. There is nothing either
about the confederate states nor why they fought Lincoln.

Immigrants
learn also that the U.S. won independence from England but they
do not learn why they thought it necessary to seek independence
to begin with.

And
to the question "Can the constitution be changed" the
answer is a simple "yes." There is nothing on what it
takes to change it, only that a change to the constitution is called
an amendment.

The
question I like best, however, is #86: "Name one benefit of
being a citizen of the United Stated."

Now,
how many of you would have guessed that the number one answer or
benefit, according to the government, is to "Obtain federal
government jobs"?

Furthermore,
the right to vote does not even make the list. The other two acceptable
answers are "travel with a U.S. passport" and "petition
for close relatives to come to the U.S. to live."

Well…The
last thing I want is a federal government job, I can travel to even
more countries and just as freely with a Canadian passport and none
of my relatives want to move here. Therefore, according to the U.S.
government, there would be no benefits for me in becoming an American
citizen.

Makes
me wonder whatever happened with, not only the right to vote, but
the right to vote federal government employees out of their jobs?

Patriotically
yours,
Chantal
K. Saucier

December
5, 2001

Chantal
K. Saucier [send
her mail
] is a freelance writer and full-time
doctoral student living in South Louisiana.

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