The Lin-Manuel Miranda music video above highlights the precarious situation of refugees as well as their contributions to building the country with “American flags. References to border security. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents dragging away immigrants in the thick of night.” [New ‘Hamilton Mix-Tape video takes aim at immigration (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 6/29/17) and Lin-Manuel Miranda Releases ‘Immigrants’ Video From ‘Hamilton Mixtape’ (RollingStone, 6/29/17).]
“Nation of immigrants” is just one of the founding myths that turns out to be not quite true, as Native Americans observe on this Independence Day. In a 2016 column in Native News Online, Mark Charles reminds us that, “This continent had been inhabited by millions of people for centuries, even millennia.” column in Native News On the July 4 celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, he reminds us:
“Yes, believe it or not, a mere 30 lines beneath the statement “All men are created equal,” the Declaration of Independence refers to Natives as “merciless Indian Savages.” Making it abundantly clear that the only reason the founding fathers used the inclusive language “all men” is because they had a very narrow definition of who was and who was not human.
“According the Declaration of Independence, Natives are dehumanized as savages who stood in the way of westward expansion.”
Today’s celebrations hold mixed meanings for both Native Americans and immigrants. Some 15,000 immigrants became citizens during the July 4 week. Many were driven by fear.
“It was an emotionally charged ceremony that occurred in the week Trump’s attempt to ban travellers from six Muslim-majority countries went into partial effect. One person at the ceremony was from a targeted country, Yemen. Another was from Iraq, which was included in the first version of the president’s travel ban.
“Valery Mendez, a 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic, said becoming a US citizen took on new importance with Trump as president. She had lived in the US for six years legally but wanted the most security possible.
“I have the right to be here,” Mendez said. “It’s not that I didn’t before, but I can be more confident now.” [‘I have the right to be here’: becoming an American under a Trump presidency,” The Guardian, 7/2/17]
Today, as in years past, immigrants eagerly learn English and work to become citizens. Pew Research Center finds
“Based on Pew Research Center estimates using the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data available, two-thirds (67%) of lawful immigrants eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship had applied for and obtained citizenship by 2015. This is the highest share since at least the mid-1990s.”
Ironically, Mexican legal permanent residents are the least likely group to become citizens. They are the largest group of permanent residents (sometimes called green card holders), but face barriers, according to Pew Research:
“The most frequent reasons centered on inadequate English skills, lack of time or initiative, and the cost of the U.S. citizenship application [$725]. These appear to be significant barriers, as nearly all lawful immigrants from Mexico said they would like to become U.S. citizens someday.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer reminds us of the real back story on immigration – that most of the people now denouncing immigrants and telling people to get in line had ancestors who entered with no papers and permissions.
“When people say their ancestors came legally, if they came before 1924, everybody was legal,” said Ngai. “It wasn’t a choice they had to make. After 1924, if you couldn’t get a visa because your country’s quota was filled, many came without documents. They sneaked in.”
Writing for the American Immigration Council, Guillermo Cantor says we need to get the immigration system in line with American values:
“These national values include, but are not limited to, the belief that: families should be preserved; admission policies should not be based on national origin, race, or privilege; fairness and due process are essential in admission and removal decisions; individuals fleeing persecution and violence should be provided with a safe haven; immigrants embody the U.S. value of self-sufficiency, hard work, and drive to succeed; fair, orderly, and secure migration sustains the rule of law; and criminals and security threats defy U.S. ideals and, therefore, should not be admitted or allowed to remain.”