In my eyes Americans, (citizens of the United States of America) quite simply, are those who have all of the rights that the constitution guarantees them, and who abide by all the laws our government creates. Whether these Americans are born in the country or immigrate into the US, gaining full citizenship, they all have the same rights and live by the same rules. Immigrants who come into the country legally and with permanent visas are true Americans who have worked to get where they are. However, the large flow of illegal immigrants who have either entered illegally or overstayed their temporary visas are neither citizens nor Americans. In contrast to those immigrants who have taken the steps to be educated on our political and economic system, becoming functioning members of our society, those who have bypassed those steps and come in anyway are taking advantage of hard working Americans (including legal immigrants).
Being American means having all the rights that Americans have as a citizen, but it also means abiding by the laws set up by our government. Coming in illegally or staying over temporary visas, meant for staying certain amounts of time for business purposes or vacation, is breaking the law. Accepting these illegal (and often undocumented) immigrants is an insult to those who have taken the time and effort to come in legally. Judith Derboven is a woman who works with my father and immigrated to the US in 1986. Originally from Belgium, she married an American man in 1981 and lived in England for five years. She then applied for a permanent green card to move to the US and eventually did. She lived in the US with her green card, which allows you to do everything but vote and serve on a jury, for 30 years until she became a citizen in 2016. She waited for a long time to become a citizen, and in an interview with her she said it was difficult to wait that long, especially when she had a family to take care of. However, she said she was very glad to finally be in the US with her greencard. She got a job and was able to work hard to take care of her children. This persistance and work ethic is the embodiment of the American spirit, or what it’s supposed to be. How insulting is it that the many people like Judith, who have waited decades to get into the US, have to hear about illegal immigrants coming in or overstaying their visas every year? Every year around 1,000,000 legal immigrants enter the US legally. As of right now, there are 11.4 million immigrants residing illegally in the US. The process of becoming a US citizen is often a long one, and maybe the US should take steps to ease this process for those who need to come in, but allowing illegal immigrants to stay in a country that many people work for years to get into is not only degrading for our society, costing us millions of dollars in education, emergency medical treatment, law enforcement, and more, it shows disrespect to our legal immigrants. If being American means abiding by the same laws that Americans do, then illegal immigrants have already given up their rights as citizens.
This increasingly prominent pattern of allowing illegal immigrants to reside, save for those families conflicted by having children in the US, is damaging to our society and disrespectful to legal immigrants, and needs to be solved, whether by making the process of legal immigration easier, or by taking steps to discourage illegal immigration. If we don't, we risk more than societal costs. We risk what it means to be American.