Darcy Keenan, columnist

Last week I wrote about DACA, explaining what it is and why it is important to this country. I ended it with a simple statement “They [dreamers] are just trying to better themselves, along with the American economy and society because they consider themselves, as do I, Americans.”  This brings up another important topic for discussion, though: what does it mean to be an American?

There seems to be the idea that you need citizenship to be an American, and that having citizenship makes someone an American. They are one and the same. However, this has never made sense to me. If an undocumented immigrant comes to America and has a child, that child is a citizen even if they spend the rest of their life in their mother country. Following this logic, they would be “more American” than a child who was born in another country but came to America and grew up here.

Being a citizen does make you an American, but there are other ways to be American. Having a green card or a visa for work or school also makes you an American because you are working to help better America, even if that is not your intention. You can also be undocumented and American. They are not mutually exclusive.

Undocumented immigrants can help better America as a country as well as their local communities.  They better America by working and spending money, which helps the economy. They teach their children certain values and morals that typically include determination, hard work, being open minded and being adaptable.

Lots of times, the children of immigrants (undocumented or not) are taught about both the cultures of their mother country and the culture of the community that directly surrounds them. This is beneficial for America because we pride ourselves on being a melting pot, on the diversity that exists in our country.

America is often called a melting pot, which is a term that many Americans take pride in. Being a melting pot, there is no culture that can be called more or less American than another. There is no one culture than all Americans can identify with. There is also no official language or religion on the country. This all means that culture, language, and religion cannot be a part of anyone’s definition of American.

keenandn@miamioh.edu

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