I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of hearing this old cliché that we’re “a nation of immigrants.”
No, we’re not. We’re a nation of Americans.
Granted, at one time we were a confederation of immigrants spread out through 13 different colonies. However, once independence from King George was secured by our Founders, we became one nation of Americans.
That’s not to say our relatives didn’t come from another country or that we don’t have a lot of people from a lot of countries wanting to move here. We do. Indeed, there are far more people wanting to get in than get out.
But the question is whether, for example, Germans want to be Germans who live in the United States … or want to be Americans? Do Chinese want to be Chinese who live in the United States … or do they want to be Americans? Do Mexicans want to be Mexicans who live in the United States … or do they want to be Americans?
You get the point.
Of course, if someone wishes to remain a citizen of their native country but live and work here, that’s fine — and we have visa programs for that purpose. But if you want to become an American, that’s another thing altogether. And one of the things missing in the current immigration reform debate is any discussion of what it actually means to be an American.
For example, being an American means you adopt our American system of government and language; not converting ours to yours.
It means you have the right to pursue happiness; it doesn’t mean you’re entitled to it.
It means you’re afforded equal opportunities under the law; it doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed success.
It means cherishing individual liberty over government dependence.
It means being able to call government officials all manner of nasty names without being thrown in jail, fined … or audited by the IRS (oops).
Unlike any other nation in the galaxy, being an American means less about where you were born than what you believe. And I’d argue that a lot of natural-born Americans are less “American” than many immigrants.
In fact, maybe we should consider adding a “SWAP” amendment to the current comprehensive immigration reform bill: For every immigrant who wants to move here seeking liberty and opportunity, we boot out one natural-born citizen who wants cradle-to-grave government handouts.
Kidding aside, the fact remains we are not a nation of immigrants. We’re a nation of Americans who welcome immigrants who wish to come here and become an American. And we are not a democracy, but a constitutional republic based on the rule of law. Meaning there’s a right way to immigrate here and a wrong way.
Let’s hope Congress remembers that this Independence Day.
(Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a conservative grassroots advocacy organization. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)