Becoming an American: how our elite has cheapened citizenship

I was at a Christmas party Friday night with old friends. One of them has lived and worked in America for over 30 years; she is from England. I have celebrated Boxer Day with her family many times.

She told me some big news. After years of thinking about it, she became a citizen of her adopted country. She said it was a very moving experience. It begins with music by Phillip Sousa and ends with a nice video featuring America the Beautiful. The final message is “I am citizen of the United States of America.” And followed in bold, “SO HELP ME GOD.” Those details delighted and surprised me–and her.

After congratulating my old friend (and saying “What took you so long?”), I mentioned that I just attended a naturalization ceremony with another friend of mine from Egypt. There were about 48 people from 25 countries. I told her that some of the new citizens required an interpreter to translate the oath so they could understand the proceedings.  (This explains why we have so many interpreters at polling precincts assisting voters on election day.)

What did she think about that?

She and I agreed that if you cannot understand the oath of citizenship, maybe you are not ready to become a voting citizen. And she was surprised because demonstrating competency in English was part of her process.

Then I mentioned another oddity from the proceeding: at the start of the morning, before anything else happened, a woman from the League of Women Voters handed out voter registration forms. She gave a speech, saying something like, “You have just witnessed an election in Minnesota that demonstrated how every vote counts. And we want your vote now that you will be citizens.” The she walked through each section of the form, explaining how to fill it out, and said that the forms would be picked up after the ceremony and delivered to the secretary of state. The new citizens would not have to do a thing.

The League was very much part of the front and back end of the proceedings: you could not get out of that room without someone from their team offering to help you fill out the form, asking if you had questions, and taking the form for processing. (I asked the League about citizens not being able to speak English; she said the U.S. had been doing that for years. It was no big deal; the important thing was that the new citizens were voting. I know that the refugee program run by the State Department rushes people to citizenship in five years. Why are we in such a hurry to get people voting?)

My friend from Egypt sent me a text from his seat up front asking, “How can these people be here?” He thought it was fine to hand out the  registration form but thought it was his responsibility to fill it out and get it processed. After all, he is now a citizen of the United States of America. He told me afterwards, “If I cannot do this on my own, I should not be voting!”

When I told my British friend his reaction, she vehemently disagreed. She thinks the League performs an important function. I said, yes, handing out the forms is fine but shouldn’t the League teach that as citizens you are required to handle the details of getting registered, etc.? Tell them how to do but don’t do it for them?

Again, she disagreed, arguing that it is important that these new citizens vote and so on.

Yes, they now have to right to vote but don’t all of us have a responsibility to think in advance about the elections and get registered; does that not demonstrate we are serious about being informed and that we take voting seriously?

My friend from Egypt, Hassan, came to our country many years ago in hopes of being a citizen. He loves America, loves the West and all it stands for: freedom and prosperity. (He bought this special flag and wrapped himself in it for this momentous occasion.) He is deeply offended by illegal immigration and is critical of the legal immigration policies, including our refugee resettlement policies dating back to the early 1990’s.

He thinks our lax approach to immigration betrays a terrible naiveté and a dangerous lack of care for preserving American culture, the culture that attracted him to move here. He did not come all the way from Egypt to live in a chaotic, socialist nation. He could have gone many places around the globe, or just stayed in Egypt, for that.

He is also deeply offended as a taxpayer by our welfare system, especially that we allow illegal and legal immigrants to get welfare. When we talk about it, he is more upset than I am! And now he is offended by the League’s place of influence in the naturalization ceremony. He looked around the proceedings and sensed that the League was working hard to cancel his vote for limited government and a free market system.

He got it right, standing there in the midst of dozens of new citizens, some unable to understand the proceedings. His instincts told him that the League of Women Voters was a leftist institution (it is) and that they were “harvesting” what they hoped were new DFL voters (the look of glee on their faces suggested they knew they were doing more than enabling good citizenship). And those DFL votes translate into a bigger social welfare state.

By the way, legal immigrants must wait much longer these days for their applications to be processed due to a backlog of asylum claims, the influx of refugees from past years and illegal immigration.

Hassan, who has always worked and never taken a penny in welfare, did something huge to demonstrate his deep affection for his new country. He did what my great-grandfather from Norway did in the late 19th century, and so many immigrants before and after him. Hassan changed his name to “Adam” and agreed to let me introduce you to him. I asked how his parents reacted to changing his name? They were all for it.

As for my girlfriend, the new citizen? She and I agreed to disagree and argue some more on Boxer Day. Congratulations to both of my dear friends. May we all work hard to keep the great Republic they adopted.