Dalton Gregory 2020

Dalton Gregory

With so much debate about immigration to the United States, it seems to beg the question about who deserves to be here and who deserves to be a citizen.

Part of the answer was decided in 1868 in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It was created as part of the effort to correct our sin of slavery and clarify citizenship. “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

The simple path to U.S. citizenship is to be born here. You don’t have to do anything else. You don’t have to register to vote, or pay taxes, or work hard. Nevertheless, you have the privileges of citizenship.

Citizenship by birth means you don’t have to demonstrate a knowledge of U.S. history or understand how our government works. You don’t have to demonstrate good moral character. You don’t have to demonstrate loyalty to the U.S. Constitution. All of which are required for immigrants to become naturalized citizens.

There are eight steps to become a naturalized citizen of the United States.

Be at least 18 years of age at the time you file the application.

Have been a lawful permanent resident for the past three or five years (depending on which naturalization category you are applying under).

Have continuous residence and physical presence in the United States.

Be able to read, write and speak basic English.

Demonstrate good moral character.

Demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government.

Demonstrate a loyalty to the principles of the U.S. Constitution.

Be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance.

But first, to become a naturalized citizen, you have to get here. And that is much easier for some than others. It is easier if you are white, have money and come from western Europe. That has been true since at least 1891.

Try to imagine the extra effort some make just to get here and start the process. People from Haiti left there because of an unstable government that has been unable to react to three earthquakes and five hurricanes that have killed around 322,632 since 2008. Many more are homeless and desperate.

It is easy to understand why so many are leaving Haiti. It is less easy to understand why any would stay.

Many Haitians first went to South America, but when the economy collapsed there, they decided to find refuge and a new home in the USA. The trip was expensive, dangerous and with no assurance that they could even cross the border into the U.S.

Despite claims to the contrary, the U.S. does not have an open border. Many were denied entry. Around 8,000 were put on planes and sent back to Haiti.

The trip from South America includes a 66-mile roadless jungle along the Colombian Panama border called the Darien Gap. You may have seen the news reels of the paths going through rivers, and the reports of migrants subjected to robbery, bribery and rape.

But some of my citizen neighbors seem to reject outright these people who work so hard and subject themselves to hardship and danger to become U.S. citizens. Many of those same neighbors voted for the previous billionaire president who paid only $750 in income taxes during two of his four years in office. He brags about not paying taxes. He also dodged the draft because of a bone spur.

Some excuse the former president saying he was willing to forgo his presidential salary. Maybe, but then he is charging the U.S. government tens of thousands of dollars every month to rent rooms at his resort to provide him Secret Service protection.

Hard work, extraordinary effort and sacrifice might help some folks. But oh, to be lucky enough to be born American and have very rich parents. You know those folks who were born on third base but strut around pretending that they hit a triple all by themselves.

They deserve to be here. The Constitution guarantees it. But don’t folks who are willing to work hard and sacrifice so much also deserve even a chance to be here and become American citizens?

DALTON GREGORY is whittling his way through retirement after a career in public education and serving nine years on the Denton City Council.