Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

What Is An American? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

When I asked my father this question, he laughed and shook his head. I have a knack for asking the hard ones. But as our nation struggles with the issue of illegal immigration, we don’t bother to ask this of ourselves.

The first time this question occurred to me was while I was watching “American Idol” a few years ago. A beautiful Russian performer was struggling to get her green card. The judges loved her but rejected her all the same. My mother said it was because they wanted an American idol. I blinked and asked her, “What’s more American than an immigrant?” She sighed.

Every single American citizen is an immigrant, even Native Americans, who came across the Bering Strait thousands of years ago. Homo sapiens originated in Africa, and every other place we settled we were strangers, right? But the United States is unique because it once welcomed all immigrants. The majority of Americans have ancestors who came over barely a hundred years ago. My earliest family immigrated scarcely three generations ago. And so we must ask ourselves: is it right to deny entrance to people who, like our ancestors, want to make a new home and are willing to work for the opportunities we have?

If you really think about it, the people who risk life and limb to come to our country have a higher opinion of U.S. ideals than a lot of us do. Their ancestors have lived in the same place for hundreds of years, perhaps more. Can you imagine the courage it takes to leave all that behind?

Furthermore, we owe immigrants a lot. For example, our fresh produce is cultivated by migrant workers, a harvest picked in shame. I ­believe the very least we can do is grant them citizenship, minimum wage, and schooling for their children. In addition to some of the more skilled jobs immigrants do, we take many advantages for granted – aisles of produce, janitors at fast-food restaurants – that are made possible by the people some scorn and wish to remove from our country.

Some say if we let everyone in, we won’t have room. We’re the third-largest country on the planet. There’s room, and immigration is happening regardless. Let’s screen for criminals but let others in. After all, can’t we share Thanksgiving with the laborers who have more than earned their wages?

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





Join the Discussion


This article has 66 comments. Post your own!

forsaken said...
Mar. 31, 2011 at 8:45 pm:
i have thought about this issue. i hope my comment will encourage you to come back to reality. i agree with you but disagree more. here are some points you may not have thought about. how many homeless people would love to have all those jobs that illegal immigrants do? how much money is earned in America that is sent back to Mexico to immigrants families?, which means less money spent and circulated in America. My friend had his car stolen by a kid who was caught and deported for... (more »)
 
daughterofeve14 replied...
Oct. 29, 2011 at 1:25 pm :
I totally agree with you. I am not an imigrant. I was born here. Yes, most of my blood is Cherokee, Chocataw, and Blackfoot, but I do have some English in me and my English family was suppose to get here on the Titanic, but then it sank but they survived. But thats not my point. My point is Im not an imigrant, and neither is the person that wrote this article I dont think. 
 
BlueSkiez replied...
Dec. 21, 2013 at 8:30 pm :
wait forsaken, you say "we" may have ancestors that immigrated here but not you? that means you're native american....right?
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
toxsickfiend said...
Jan. 24, 2011 at 8:23 am:
You made a good point about everyone technically being an immigant. The issue isn't that America doesn't welcome immigrants searching for a place to call home. It is actually with those looking to cheat the current system of becoming a legal citizen and coming over illegally. When they do that they end up taking away from the people already here and give their people a bad name. America is a melting pot since it is a blend of so many cultures and has a rich history. So you're right, there is ... (more »)
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
T.R. Trevino said...
Jan. 11, 2011 at 8:59 pm:

The way many Americans seem to see it is something like this: The ideal American has a decent job, a family, a good education, born American, and is 'normal'.

Now, let's be realistic. There, in my opinion, is no such thing as an 'ideal American'. Our bloodlines started in faraway places, we are a blend of religions, races, sexualities, degrees of education, and so fourth.

In my opinion (once again), we should allow immagration, so long as the immagrants work and get treated just... (more »)

 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
kidfan13 said...
Nov. 22, 2010 at 10:33 pm:
If we let everyone in because we are the third largest country in the world that would be a waste. Because we wouldn't have enough resources for them all and they would be more pollution and they're won't be enough places for natural parks.
 
Ramsha S. replied...
Jun. 5, 2011 at 9:41 pm :
Don't let everyone in. Just the ones who want to come legelly and share the work with everyone :)
 
DannySanchez replied...
Oct. 17, 2012 at 11:12 am :
Haha mexicans are the ones who keep the country cleann , what you talkin bout.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
aishia_duh said...
Aug. 13, 2010 at 12:21 am:

i agree...and good points :)

 

 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Hippiechick10 said...
Jul. 24, 2010 at 4:52 pm:
awesome work! great points of view.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
sts231 said...
May 27, 2010 at 1:17 pm:
no one is american..thts a made up name we came up with to not have to be called european anymore..we took this land we werent here first..this article is a waist of time.
 
crawfordkid This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jun. 13, 2010 at 6:02 pm :
@sts231 - Try to leave some constructive critique on these articles, otherwise you lack of intelligence is obvious. By the way, you should have said, "waste" not "waist."  Good grammar usage, genius.
 
insane_lemons replied...
Sept. 26, 2010 at 3:46 pm :
ahem. you are american when you feel like you are part of that country, and you would like to a part of that country. sts231 if you don't like the article can be maybe nicer? i know people have different opinions, but express it in a kinder way.
 
insane_lemons replied...
Dec. 3, 2010 at 10:28 am :
americans simply do not exists. It is a false statement in which to achieve normalness.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
juniorminty said...
May 21, 2010 at 12:30 pm:
americans r americans!! duh! bravery and fredom is what makes an american an american. wolverines!!
 
Viva_Mexico_21 replied...
May 21, 2010 at 12:32 pm :
if it werent for immigrants there wouldnt be americans, the original immigratns werent mexicans it was europeans, sstop being ignorant
 
juniorminty replied...
May 21, 2010 at 12:33 pm :
tru dat homes!!! i agree wholeheartedly :) :)
 
amberglow13 replied...
Oct. 21, 2010 at 4:04 pm :
it doesn't even sound like you read the article.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
DizzyRae said...
May 3, 2010 at 3:16 pm:
Great article..Love ur opinion...I feel the same way...We(Americans), but not all of us, think that since we have been here since birth or something that its okay 2 keep those out who havent & label them as immigrants..I know that that is the official term for them or whatever but still it is offensive. I just believe that every1 deserves a chance. No matter what
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
horsie_luver said...
Mar. 30, 2010 at 10:40 pm:
What are people from Canada called? Canadians. What are people from Mexico called? Mexicans. What are people from the USA called? No, not USA-ians. No we're called Americans. We are such a big melting pot of different countries that we don't even go my our country's name! I love this article because it points that out very clearly. Thank you so much for putting how I, you, and many other people feel about immigration into words.
 
DizzyRae replied...
May 3, 2010 at 3:17 pm :
Love the 1st sentence u said..I hope u didnt mind but I quoted it..thank you..I gave u the credit though
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Site Feedback