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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.




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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.
 
horsie_luver replied...
May 3, 2010 at 7:06 pm :
I don't mind at all! :-D
 
MinaE replied...
Dec. 18, 2010 at 10:47 pm :

USA=United States of America (US or America for short)

Americans are named after their country. They're just not called United States of Americans because that makes no sense.

 
horsie_luver replied...
Dec. 19, 2010 at 2:25 pm :
That wasn't my point.
 
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Jigjoo This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 22, 2010 at 12:19 pm:
We are all either immigrants or decended from immigrants, not necessarily immigrants ourselves. I support your opinion because illegal immigrants are more willing to do the jobs that most American citizens refuse to take. Who shovels poo at the chicken houses? Illegal immigrants. Who wants to shovel poo in a chicken house? Not me, or any sane person I'm associated with in any way, shape or form. Illegal immigrants deserve to become citizens, but they can apply for a green card or a working ... (more »)
 
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BaiLiHuaThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 30, 2010 at 7:25 pm:
A fantastic piece. Thanks for sharing your opinion. I do believe that those who have grown up in the United States tend to take being a citizen for granted. There is SO MUCH here.
 
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AmORe said...
Nov. 21, 2009 at 5:20 pm:
You're completely right(: I myself was raised by my illegal immigrants and they worked their butts off!! And yes America should give them good credit for it like citizenship but no, this country is too cruel. Anyways becasue of them im legal and have a good education with a good job. Becasue of them (: And not many people like me take advantage of that.
 
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Jezabel said...
Nov. 9, 2009 at 8:30 am:
i am an immigrant. legal, but i no that people would die to give there familys just have the things we do.
 
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*beautiful*spirit*This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 19, 2009 at 7:53 pm:
I know. If it weren't for immigrants, many of us, including myself wouldn't be here. We are truly one big melting pot, despite what others may believe.
 
OnceUponALime This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Oct. 19, 2009 at 8:11 pm :
very nice article, so true!!!!!!! we have this same issue in canada.
 
.:al3na:. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Oct. 22, 2009 at 6:58 pm :
Agreed.
And uhm, excuse me but to whoever said that the people coming over the U.S./Mexico border have "not the slightest respect for America", they obviously have no idea what they are talking about.
You also just stereotyped my people as being filthy illegals, which seems like discrimination itself. Let me tell you, that from just knowing friends, relatives, people in our community, you can see that the life of the undocumented worker is not about disrespecting the Unite... (more »)
 
Sara! replied...
Feb. 3, 2010 at 8:17 am :
wow! I completely agree with .:al3na
 
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.:al3na:. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 18, 2009 at 7:38 pm:
Wow. Very true! Many people die just trying to come to the United States. I just wish people could see past their own noses and look into the eyes of those who simply want to live the American dream like anybody else.
 
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Jacky P. said...
Sept. 25, 2009 at 9:11 pm:
Very well put together... however, you have to consider the fact that illegal immigrants who sneak into our country most likely have little respect for our country. For example, my father traveled through a forest (of some sort) near the U.S./Mexico border, and claimed that there was tons and tons of garbage lying about there, from the illegal immigrants passing through. Also, keep in mind that if they had the slightest respect for America, they would enter LEGALLY and pay their taxes, not free... (more »)
 
Hanna C. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 21, 2009 at 10:39 am :
Not everybody has that option. Everybody who enters the country would like to enter legally; it would save them a lot of trouble. But our immigration system is messed up, and it's a lot harder than it sounds.
 
FlyingAlight replied...
Feb. 9, 2010 at 9:27 pm :
Hanna I completely agree with you and I don't think Jacky knows how hard it is to get a green card. There are many fees and tons of paper work. Risking life and limb to cross the border (in my opinion) shows thier love and drive for America/a better life. And illegal immigrants don't by any means freeload. If all the illegal immigrants were to freeload then I would garuntee our economy would crash. Corporations aredependant on them
 
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bree12 said...
Sept. 16, 2009 at 11:30 pm:
what a nice and thoughtful article. You are very true about the working part but what you fail to understand is that we cant let every immigrant in the united states. our economy is rock bottom. if we let immigrants in, which we have which impacted our economy greatly, then we are spending billions of dollars for their healthcare ,schooling, housing and possibly welfare. Immigrants are granted free healthcare and also low cost housing. What about the millions of homeless across our "great nation... (more »)
 
Hanna C. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 21, 2009 at 10:44 am :
But we also have to consider that immigrants pay taxes even though, if they are illegal, they don't get the benefits. They also take jobs that a lot of natrual-born citizens would not accept for so little pay, keeping our industries afloat. But I agree that it is a tricky subject for debate; if only we just had a stable economy!
 
Jigjoo This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Mar. 22, 2010 at 12:26 pm :
Sadly, since there are many different kinds of people who haven't the slightest clue what they're doing with their money and, of course, price gougers (Gah, my eyes!!), there is virtually no chance at all for a stable economy in our country. *sigh* If only we could all play fair...
 
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Electricity This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 16, 2009 at 2:13 pm:
True, so true. I once asked my mother what a true American looks like (like French, Chinese, Russian... they all have particular features), and she said that America does not have particular features, because Americans come from other countries. I agree with this article, and I love it. Great job!
 
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tweedle dee said...
Aug. 13, 2009 at 1:53 pm:
jenny davis said the same thing i was thinking - immigrants are fine and dandy, i have no problem and i think they deserve the same chance our families had, but illegal aliens have no place here. if you want to be an american, do the paperwork and whatever you need to do, dont sneak into our country. also springcactus made an excelent point - i love my country and my family has been here for a loooooooong time. you cant tell me that somebody else loves it more just because they just immigrated. ... (more »)
 
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