What Legal Immigration Can Teach Us About Political Involvement

Eh, there’s just a wee bit of controversy surrounding Arizona’s new immigration law. Just a wee bit.

Somewhere among the abstract refried beans artwork, I was curious about the way one might legally immigrate to the United States.

Sure, we all probably have a general idea. File papers. Study English and civics. Take the test. Become a citizen.

(And no, it’s not quite like Peter Griffin’s path to citizenship, though I liked the idea of an “act like an American” test)

So what might they ask you? Check out some sample questions.

My favorite is “What are two ways that Americans can participate in their democracy?”. To me, this gets at the very point of entering this country the right way. We offer our citizens relatively good access to governing officials. You can call/email/write them. You can vote for their opponents. You can write letters to the editor, criticizing the policy decisions of elected leaders.

Considering this question and others in the civics portion of the naturalization test, it seems people who come to this country have a stronger sense of duty than those born here. I feel like my teachers taught voting and other forms of political involvement as merely a fact that exists. The naturalization process presents it as an opportunity.

Acceptable answers for political participation, according to the federal government, include the following:

  • vote
  • join a political party
  • help with a campaign
  • join a civic group
  • join a community group
  • give an elected official your opinion on an issue
  • call Senators and Representatives
  • publicly support or oppose an issue or policy
  • run for office
  • write to a newspaper

Here are helpful links to get you on your way if you live in SC:
*Register to vote (and do so by May 8 so you can vote in the June 8 primary)
*Check your voter registration to make sure it’s up-to-date
*See who’s running for office and get involved with their campaigns.

As Americans we have a unique opportunity to shape our government through civic involvement. People from around the world come here for this opportunity. In fact, one million people became new citizens in 2008. That’s one million people who came here to exercise rights we take for granted.

America is a great country. We need to work harder to encourage people coming here to go through naturalization. Who knows…maybe those new citizens can come to our schools and teach our children the value of civics that’s been lost to “curriculum standards”.

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