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