Thoughts & Views: Sealing up the borders of our minds

There’s been a lot of talk among our lawmakers these days about how the U.S.A. should restrict the flow of illegal immigration into the country.

They gripe about how these “intruders” steal our jobs, force down wages by agreeing to work on the cheap, drive up health care costs by getting free emergency care and, of course, don’t pay taxes. Or so goes the litany of the anti-illegal immigrant crowd.

So we build miles of barrier walls along our southern border, double the number of border patrol agents, demand that voters in certain border states produce special ID cards. And those caught in our protective net, we deport as fast as we can.

And still they come, sacrificing everything, willing to take extraordinary risks – including exploitation by the “coyotes” – to pass through our “Golden Door” – even when its welcome lamp isn’t lit.

For those immigrants who play by the rules and formally apply for entry to this country, each year the U.S. – with a population of more than 300 million – admits up to 480,000 immigrants on “family-based visas,” an additional 140,000 on “permanent employment-based preference” visas, another 70,000 on “refugee” visas and 55,000 more on “diversity lottery” visas, according to the U.S. Immigration Policy Center (IPC).

“Currently, no group of permanent immigrants (family-based and employment-based) from a single country can exceed 7% of the total amount of people immigrating to the United States in a single year,” the IPC notes.

Those who seek to become naturalized citizens are asked to take a Civics Test to see if they have a basic understanding of how the U.S. government operates so that they can “fully participate in the American political process,” as explained by the government in an introduction to a practice test booklet.

Having secured a copy of such a booklet and perused its sample questions, I wonder how many of us who were born here with citizenship rights already conferred on us could provide satisfactory answers to the questions the Civics Test poses.

Here are some samples to test our own civics knowledge: (Answers are provided below. Don’t cheat.)

1. How many amendments does the Constitution have? And what are the first 10 collectively known as?

2. The House of Representatives has how many voting members?

3. Who is one of your state’s U.S. Senators now?

4. Name your U.S. Representative.

5. Who is the Chief Justice of the United States now?

6. Name three of the original 13 states.

7. The Federalist Paper supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.

8. Name one American Indian tribe in the U.S.

9. Name one U.S. territory.

10. How old do citizens have to be to vote for President?

Well, how’d we do? Well enough to teach new arrivals to the U.S. a thing or two? Or maybe we need to remind ourselves – as the government tells us in its mini civics lesson – that, “The Founders of this country decided that the United States should be a representative democracy. They wanted a nation ruled by laws, not by men.”

The ultimate irony 

It makes me think of the scene in the Reginald Rose play “12 Angry Men” where a foreign-born juror extolls the virtues of the American judicial system and scolds a fellow juror for failing to take his responsibility seriously.

Incidentally, we are reminded by the government’s Civics Test that serving on a jury is one of two responsibilities that are required of U.S. citizens; the other is voting in a federal election.

Many of us try to get out of doing jury duty and many more can’t be bothered voting, even for President. That’s why the power elite can sit back and do as they please in a country that the Founders liked to think would be a “representative democracy.”

Immigration reform, anyone?

 (Answers to test: 1. 27; Bill of Rights. 2. 435. 3. Cory Booker/ Robert Menendez. 4. Albio Sires/Donald Payne. 5. John Roberts. 6. New Hampshire/ Massachusetts/Rhode Island/ Connecticut/New York/ New Jersey/Pennsylvania/ Delaware/Maryland/Virginia/ North Carolina/South Carolina/Georgia were the original 13. 7. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay were the writers. 8. Here’s a complete list: Cherokee, Navajo, Sioux, Chippewa, Choctaw, Pueblo, Apache, Iroquois, Creek, Blackfeet, Seminole, Cheyenne, Arawak, Shawnee, Mohegan, Huron, Oneida, Lakota, Crow, Teton, Hopi and Inuit. 9. Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands and Guam are all U.S. territories. 10. 18.) 

– Ron Leir 

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