What Is An American? | Teen Ink

What Is An American? MAG

November 6, 2008
By thelastharpy SILVER, Granby, Connecticut
thelastharpy SILVER, Granby, Connecticut
8 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Love is selfless--and it's requited. Anything less is merely glorified infatuation."

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?

The author's comments:
I hope my piece will encourage others to think about this issue.

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This article has 71 comments.

on Oct. 22 2009 at 6:58 pm
NaTivE_BeAutiE GOLD, Ann Arbor, Michigan
10 articles 0 photos 23 comments

Favorite Quote:
~a woman looked at me and said, "You know, you really don't look Indian."So I smiled at her and responded: "Well you don't look stupid, but appearances can be awfully deceiving."~


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 United States, but about the love and desire to live in a country where tons of "filth and garbage" are replaced by a dream of success. I hope this could help you to stop being ignorant and appreciate the country and status you have.

on Oct. 19 2009 at 8:11 pm
Natascia BRONZE, Whitby, Other
1 article 0 photos 8 comments
very nice article, so true!!!!!!! we have this same issue in canada.

on Oct. 19 2009 at 7:53 pm
beautifulspirit PLATINUM, Alpharetta, Georgia
35 articles 0 photos 1398 comments

Favorite Quote:
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
--Eleanor Roosevelt

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.

on Oct. 18 2009 at 7:38 pm
NaTivE_BeAutiE GOLD, Ann Arbor, Michigan
10 articles 0 photos 23 comments

Favorite Quote:
~a woman looked at me and said, "You know, you really don't look Indian."So I smiled at her and responded: "Well you don't look stupid, but appearances can be awfully deceiving."~

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.

Kazzi said...
on Sep. 25 2009 at 9:11 pm
Kazzi, San Clemente, California
0 articles 1 photo 2 comments
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 freeload and help send OUR country spiraling into a recession.

bree12 said...
on Sep. 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" with no health care? How can we afford to take care of an immigrant before a citizen who has been in the united states much longer than this immigrant? Not only that but in california, florida, texas, new mexico school are complaining about overcrowded public schools. There are 42 students in a class that only seats 32 students at the maximum. This is just from legal students, now what happens if we let immigrant families come in? More overcrowding school which result in millions of dollars which result in our economy going much more downfall. How much you want to live in your la la land and wish that every immigrant be accepted, it simply can not be done.

on Aug. 16 2009 at 2:13 pm
Electricity PLATINUM, Bradenton, Florida
30 articles 0 photos 271 comments
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!

tweedle dee said...
on 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. very well written!

on May. 11 2009 at 11:17 pm
JennyDavis BRONZE, Rye, New York
1 article 0 photos 7 comments
I do agree that immigrants are essential to this country, but I have to question the difference between immigrants and illegal aliens: although it would be kind to let everybody into the country, it's only fair that one must work to obtain the proper documentation; or else, if they come here illegally, US citizens end up paying for their education, healthcare, etc., and this takes a toll on the economy. You make a good point about immigrants building America, but there is a line between letting immigrants come in, and letting aliens sneak across the border.

on May. 6 2009 at 8:41 pm
Springcactus GOLD, Camillus, New York
10 articles 0 photos 12 comments
nice article, but i do disagree about the 'immigrants love america more'. the timing doesn't change anything. america is my country now because i was born here, and if really loved the U.S., it wouldn't matter if I'd lived here for a year or a thousand years.

TeacherLady said...
on Jan. 13 2009 at 5:07 pm
This is an excellently written article. Very nice. :)