Blog author: jspalink
Thursday, December 14, 2006
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In a recent open letter to immigrants to the United States, Jennifer Roback Morse expands on the words of Emma Lazarus engraved at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Lazarus wrote: “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.” Morse goes one step further, asking immigrants to give their hearts as well.

What Morse explains is that America values immigrants. In fact, almost all Americans are descended from immigrants. But a trend that Morse observes is a segregation between new immigrants and “native” citizens. New immigrants come to America, but leave their hearts abroad. Morse implores new immigrants to embrace the United States, to accept it as their home. “If you are going to be here, we want you to become Americans. Not just citizens, but Americans in every way,” writes Morse.

Immigration into the United States is by no means an absolute right (for more on that see here). It is a privilege, granted to some and not to others; sometimes for good reasons, and sometimes not. There are certain obligations that should be met when becoming a citizen of a new country, or even for being allowed to live and work in another country.

Those obligations include, but are not limited to, following the laws of that land and being sensitive to the customs of that land. They could extend as far as learning the language. It seems to me that these are just requests in exchange for the privilege of being in a place that benefits both you and your family.

And if you seek to become a citizen, your allegiance is required. You trade your own loyalty to the government in exchange for protection and the opportunity to seek “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” at least here in the States. For immigrants, this contract is voluntary. If you happen not to agree with or like the exchange, you may leave. Should you choose to stay, you should do so whole heartedly, embracing the freedom and liberty that the United States can provide you with.