[Views expressed here are my own, and have not been endorsed by any political party, elected official, candidate for elected office, or any local, state or federal government agency]
Immigration is one of the biggest political topics in present-day America, with lots of differences in opinions among people. These differences lead to intellectual discourse, classroom discussion, and sometimes heated arguments. As an immigrant myself, I care deeply about immigration. Having been through the process of obtaining United States lawful permanent residency (Green Card), I have the knowledge of, as well as the experience of, going through the American immigration system. Finally, I have worked hard and successfully obtained American citizenship, which encourages me to be vocal about my views on immigration.
Republicans have been accused, as I have observed on television and also experienced through person-to-person contacts on numerous occasions, of being “anti-immigration” or “anti-immigrant”. As an immigrant and a Republican, I can confidently claim that labeling Republicans as “anti-immigrant” or “anti-immigration” is completely wrong.
America has always been, and continues to be a country that welcomes immigrants. The Department of Homeland Security provides immigration statistics (links provided below) showing the data on people who received Green Cards, number of people who became naturalized citizens, and more. For example: since 2005, approximately a million people received lawful permanent resident status every year. Furthermore, hundreds of thousands of people are naturalized each year. Immigrants are an important part of America. People coming from all over the world, bringing their skills, working hard, making great contributions to this country’s success – all of these make immigration so vital to our economy.
One of the most important things to remember while discussing the topic of immigration is: the difference between legal entry into the United States of America and unlawful entry. As an immigrant, I can completely understand an individual’s desire to come to the United States. This is a country that offers great freedom, opportunity, and rewards hard work. People from all over the world look at America as a symbol of tremendous success, and understand that in America people can work hard to turn dreams into reality. I believe what make America great are its people, and the laws that govern our society. Therefore, I followed the law and proper procedures to come to America.
I came to the United States as a legal immigrant and received the permanent resident status in 2007. Receiving the immigrant visa prior to entering America required a very long process – which included waiting period and was full of paperwork, fees, and visit to U.S. Embassy for interview. My parents and I also had to get vaccines from designated medical provider prior to admission into the country. The status of being a permanent resident brought with itself tremendous responsibilities. I spent every single day learning more about this country, and making sure that I follow all the rules. I worked hard and received my bachelors and masters degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, spent time as a public servant, volunteered in various community activities, filed tax returns, enrolled in Selective Service, and tried to abide by moral and ethical guidelines. There are numerous details that a Green Card holder has to pay attention to, including (as an example) but not limited to, notifying the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within 10 days of any change in address. Failure to do so could have potential legal consequences (see link below).
When the time came, I applied for citizenship. The N-400 citizenship form was long (please note that it is available on the USCIS website, but may be periodically updated), and required a great deal of information. One must always ensure that no errors are made when completing a form of such significance. In addition to basic contact and biographic information, the form asks for information about parents, education and employment history, travel history for trips made outside the United States, marital history, information about children, history of memberships at clubs or associations, and has numerous other questions. To provide an example, there is a question on the form: “Have you EVER been arrested, cited, or detained by any law enforcement officer (including any immigration official or any official of the U.S. armed forces) for any reason?” A law-abiding individual might instantly be inclined to answer “NO”. However, what this means is that even if someone received a traffic citation, that should be reported, perhaps also including documents showing that the fine was paid and/or the matter was resolved or is in the process of being resolved. That is just a tiny example of how time-consuming and detailed the application is. As I went through the process, there was also a biometric test, as well as an interview (which included an English language test and Civics test). I do strongly believe that the United States should have a very rigorous system to perform a thorough review of an individual and his/her background prior to giving him/her immigrant visa and/or citizenship.
Because the entire process is long and requires lots of information, many people decide to seek the assistance of attorneys in the course of pursuing citizenship. Even people who have diligently fulfilled all requirements and have no reason to be denied citizenship may seek legal expertise of a professional to ensure that the application has been carefully reviewed prior to submission, and to know with certainty that it has no errors or missed items. I, too, had sought the help of an attorney – a highly qualified professional from a reputed law firm who provided excellent service, which also meant that I had to spend thousands of dollars in legal expenses. Only upon satisfying all requirements, I got a notification in the mail informing about the place and time for the Oath of Allegiance – the final step in becoming a U.S. citizen.
I recall the evening before the day of my citizenship oath. My mother and I were in the car, as I drove through the roads of Madison, Wisconsin. We were listening to the radio. It was the evening of November 20, 2014. For those who may remember, on that date President Obama announced executive actions on immigration, which generated widespread criticisms about his use of executive power. I waited impatiently for the next day when I would take my oath to become a U.S. citizen, after going through a very long process of immigration and citizenship. Then, upon hearing about President Obama’s use of executive power, I asked myself: through his action, what message was the President sending to those who wished to come and/or came to the United States LEGALLY?
Almost three years since that evening, the immigration debate still continues. There are many immigrants who work very hard to come to the United States through legal channels, and contribute greatly to our country’s success. The day I took the Oath of Allegiance to become an American citizen will always be one of the happiest days of my life. As an immigrant, a United States citizen, and a conservative Republican, I express my support for immigration, and I believe that unlawful entry into the United States must be stopped. I believe that to ensure a fair immigration system that allows people to enter the United States legally, all incentives to unlawful entry into the United States need to come to an end, and the country’s border needs to be secured.