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.

Robert214 GOLD said...
on Jan. 23 2020 at 8:09 pm
Robert214 GOLD, Guangzhou, Other
11 articles 0 photos 45 comments

Favorite Quote:
Make the best of what is within our power, and take the rest as it occurs. -Epictetus

This article is fantastic! But the US should be more cautious when letting in immigrants due to the concerns of national security. People should come based on their merits.

on Nov. 20 2018 at 1:29 pm
Dani_Higareda PLATINUM, Hanahan, South Carolina
20 articles 0 photos 109 comments

Favorite Quote:
“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.”
- Winnie the Pooh

You make great points. Great job! It's very well written:)

on Mar. 15 2017 at 8:13 pm
eshaansoman SILVER, Hillsborough, New Jersey
8 articles 0 photos 30 comments
great piece!

triple-p said...
on Oct. 19 2016 at 1:26 pm
@jersey The natives had no immigration policies. Everybody who came was legal, and look where that got them.

gurlygurl123 said...
on Aug. 19 2014 at 1:28 pm
We shouldn't have to thank you becuase you guys shouldn't have ebslaved us in the first place should yo? you could have just done the work yourselfs.

Namama36 said...
on Jan. 20 2014 at 11:55 pm
Namama36, Summer Looms , Idaho
0 articles 0 photos 35 comments

Favorite Quote:
I am bold, expressive and unique. Nationis Coniunge!

Awesome point!

BlueSkiez said...
on Dec. 21 2013 at 8:30 pm
wait forsaken, you say "we" may have ancestors that immigrated here but not you? that means you're native american....right?

on Nov. 20 2013 at 8:46 pm
Peacemakerz PLATINUM, Cupertino, California
25 articles 2 photos 23 comments

Favorite Quote:
The world will never have lasting peace so long as men reserve for war the finest human qualities. Peace, no less than war, requires idealism and self-sacrifice and a righteous and dynamic faith.
-John Foster Dulles

   You bring the struggles of many "immigrant Americans,"  to life describing the lack of appreciation. In my opinion, there is no such thing as being American or Russian or Asian (not trying to be racist here) or for that matter any of the races.  This is because, none of us are full or solid American. We all have a mix, even if you think your pure Russian. There is destined to be a little bit of off Russian, if you know what I mean.                          My point is that  nobody is full blood from one race. As we see repetitively in history, a couple thought to be pure white might give birth to an African baby because of some dormant genes. My race happens to be, part Egyptian,Syrian,Turkish and probably much more. This esay helped remind me of how we all are different.              Each bringing a different lifestyle or talent. In the US, we have to learn to appreciate other "immigrants" and know we all are like them. WIthout any type of immigration, many of us would not have an opportunity to live here. For example, if the pilgrims didn't migrate to the US to become "immigrants," then there would be no diversity of life here. 

on Aug. 5 2013 at 10:22 am
RelativetoWriting GOLD, Brecksville, Ohio
13 articles 0 photos 34 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes."
-Walt Whitman

This is so true! You make wonderful points; America is founded on immagration. I will think about this a lot after reading your article. Spectacular work!

on May. 7 2013 at 12:04 am
ChickenLegHouse BRONZE, Brighton, Michigan
3 articles 0 photos 44 comments
Yes, they were set free after we inslaved them, should they thank us for that?

DannySanchez said...
on Oct. 17 2012 at 11:12 am
Haha mexicans are the ones who keep the country cleann , what you talkin bout.

on Oct. 17 2012 at 10:39 am
Racism is having no heart </3 Ima Mexicanoo xD

tank said...
on Aug. 1 2012 at 12:52 pm
very good, and well said but the sad thing is that there is another reallity, our national security is at risk, terroist are in the southern border, and we can welcome immigrants like me but we should account for them and allow our borders and our laws to be respected.

on Jan. 27 2012 at 4:55 pm
RealisticWoman BRONZE, Nowhere Land, Alabama
2 articles 0 photos 16 comments
Please. The pilgrims were here because they believed no one lived here. Illegal immigrants today have knowledge that lots of people live in America. If you want to drudge up human history, then you might as well say that the countries over in Europe don't have a right to those lands they have because they massacred the people who lived there in the first place.

Jersey said...
on Jan. 26 2012 at 8:13 pm
We are all illegal immigrants. The "pilgrims" were illegal immigrants. They stole native lands and massacred the people who lived here. My grandfather came here without any type of visa. Those of us who were born here are simply claiming possession of a land that is not ours and denying rights to others so they can be exploited and abused. Don't like "illegal" immigrants, then stop eating any produce, or eating in restaurants, or getting your car washed, etc., etc....

on Dec. 7 2011 at 8:50 pm
RealisticWoman BRONZE, Nowhere Land, Alabama
2 articles 0 photos 16 comments
An American is one who was born in the United States of America. An immigrant is one who applies to become a citizen of our nation. An illegal immigrant is one who enters our nation without permission such as a brother enter's an elder sister's room without askance. We should provide the immigrants with all the opportunities that home born babies have. However, any illegal immigrant should be cast out, if not imprisioned in another country as we are still not going to put up with invaders even in our own prisons. Even ones who cross illegally and have a child in our country just to be able to stay here.

on Dec. 2 2011 at 7:42 am
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

Our country was built upon the backs of so many immigrants. The United States is country is essentially a melting pot---a diverse population is one thing that makes our country truly unique. An American has no typical appearance; there are African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Italian-Americans, the list goes on and on. Good job!

on Nov. 23 2011 at 7:55 pm
batondancetumble SILVER, Boone, Iowa
6 articles 0 photos 9 comments

Favorite Quote:
A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.
~Ayn Rand
Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.
~William James
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.” – B. Olatunji

(That was supposed to be a new comment Sorry!!)

on Nov. 23 2011 at 7:54 pm
batondancetumble SILVER, Boone, Iowa
6 articles 0 photos 9 comments

Favorite Quote:
A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.
~Ayn Rand
Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.
~William James
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.” – B. Olatunji

I totally agree!! My own grandparents are immigrants from Canada (wow, I know) and my mom is one of the first in her family to be born in the U.S. I think that coming from many different backgrounds is what defines an American. Thank you fro writing this!

on Nov. 19 2011 at 10:42 am
onedirectionlover GOLD, Hampton, Virginia, Virginia
16 articles 3 photos 37 comments
The thing is, not everyone wanting to come into this country so bad isn't a good person. They'll just be bums and not work at all. Think of african-americans. We set them free a long time ago from slaves but they aren't thanking us very much are they.