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 I've said it before. My liberal friends think that I'm way too politically conservative and my conservative friends think that I'm a wild-eyed progressive. I must be doing something right.

The latest bone of contention involves immigration. The US Supreme Court has allowed implementation of Trump's plan to require that all prospective immigrants demonstrate that they will not need certain forms of public assistance after entry. For something like 30 years, American immigration rules have forbidden recent immigrants from receiving cash payments. The new rules would include such benefits as SNAP, formerly Food Stamps.

I'm conflicted.

Americans can visit France for up to 90 days without a visa. If we want to stay longer, or want to stay more than 180 days in any one year, we have to apply for a long-stay visa. That application includes proof of medical insurance throughout the stay and the demonstration of sufficient financial resources so as not to become a burden to the French state. Folks like us who intended to become permanent residents had to renew our paperwork annually, providing similar proofs each year.

At the time that we began the process in 2014, we thought nothing of it. It's what the French demanded. We had sufficient income and savings to pass the tests. So, while it was an expensive pain in the ass, we trooped to Beziers every year for five years, presented our paperwork, paid what seemed to us to be an exorbitant amount of money, and so were allowed to stay in France for another year. After five years, perhaps in recognition of nothing more than the persistence of having gone through the process, we were granted a full ten years of residency before our next renewal.

Should we have been upset? I didn't think so and I don't think so. Although the right of free movement exists between the 26 countries that make up the Schengen Area of Europe where passport controls at borders have basically been abolished, the French still think of themselves as special and that living in France is a privilege. There's even a test that you have to take during your interview in order to obtain that multi-year residency card that includes knowledge of the language and understanding of the culture, not dissimilar to the test that you have to take to become an American citizen. The difference is that, having passed the test, you don't become a citizen of France. You just get to live there.

So why should it be any different if you want to live in the USofA? Well, I'll tell you why. The French don't have a statue in the harbor of their major port of entry that has a poem tacked to its pedestal that reads: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Do you suppose that when Emma Lazarus wrote that poem, she expected that the huddled, wretched refuse would arrive with medical insurance prearranged? Of course not. 

The United Sates was founded on the proposition that taking in refugees from around the world and giving them a chance to add their talents to our American experiment strengthened us. In practice, that concept sometimes meant that those refugees had to travel a rocky road. Irish, Chinese, Jews, and others often learned that the words of Lazarus' poem were more welcoming than the immigrants who preceded them. Because after all, we are all immigrants, all except those who were in North America before the Europeans arrived and those brought to America's shores by force. Their stories are different, of course. Darker.

My point is that the new rules are not in and of themselves egregious in the modern world. It can be argued that the new regulations are merely sensible precautions. But if they are going to be implemented, it will mean that Americans have decided to change who we are, what we want our country to represent. Having held the door open for the better part of four centuries, admittedly with certain caveats, we have to be comfortable with putting up new barriers to admittance to the American dream. 

It's a simple question. Are you OK with changing what America means to itself and to the rest of the world? Because the new regulations don't take us back to some previous, idyllic America. They don't make us great again. Rather, they create a new, smug and self-satisfied America. (Kinda like France!) And that's an America that I don't find particularly appealing.





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