Written by Becca Mann, Mosaic Intern for Student Gender Equity, Social Justice and Inclusion in Campus Life.
There is no denying that U.S.-born citizens hold privileges over immigrants, no matter their status (e.g., undocumented, visa recipient, permanent resident). My parents and I were all born in America. I recognize that there are many privileges that are granted to us because of this, and are withheld from those with a non-citizen status. Some of these privileges were things that took some time for me to learn about and the different experiences that immigrants may have encountered because they held a different status. Furthermore, I’ve grown to understand that these privileges excluding non-citizens are nothing personal to immigrants. Instead, they are part of something systemic that cause lack of access to necessary resources to many people living in the U.S.
Although not immigrant-related, this issue has made me think of the classic 1989 text, Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh. This piece creates the connection on how “Whiteness” grants “invisible” privileges to those who hold a White Identity. Although some of the items on the 26-point list may sound outdated, they resonate with how it has connected to my citizenship status. I would also like to be clear that I am also White. Now, there are definitely still privileges granted to those who are citizens regardless of race, but I want to take note of my racial identity because of how these two identities intersect.
(Picture taken from Los Angeles Times, 2014)
With this, I would like to provide only 12 of the many ways in which I benefit from my citizenship status (note: please keep in mind that the items on the list affect different immigrant groups in unique ways):
Although I still have to pay back my loans, I qualify for Federal Financial Aid in my pursuit of a college degree (FASFA.gov, 2018). I do not have to be concerned about my ability to stay in college is connected to my status.
In addition, I can qualify for cash welfare, food stamps, medical assistance if our family was ever financially struggling (Maryland.gov, 2018). I have a social security number, the prerequisite to access any of these.
I have the ability to travel anywhere and don't have to worry about not getting back in the country. I can go through airport security and customs easily.
I feel comfortable filling out job applications and don't have to worry about not being able to apply because of my status. Yes, you know that little box that asks, “Can you legally work in this country?” That’s because of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
I don't have to renew a United States work permit every two to three years like some visa holders (USCIS, 2018). For that matter, this saves me the $495 for every time an immigrant has to renew it. I never have to worry about being sponsored by an employer in order for me to start working.
I don't have to keep tons of backups of identification on me at all times. In other words, I can just carry my license and not have to also think about carrying a passport, birth certificate, green card and/or social security card. I know this may also be due to my Whiteness. I acknowledge this can be something that citizens of color may still experience.
I don't have to deal with the awkwardness of friends not knowing my status or listen to mainstream media making derogatory comments on the citizenship statuses of me or my family.
I don't have to update my biometrics every year by scheduling an appointment with the Application Support Center— including my personal information, fingerprinting, and pictures (USCIS, 2018).
When I hear a knock on the door, I don't have to worry about it being ICE. I don't have to worry about the fear of deportation (or the deportation of my family members). If I plead guilty to a crime or if my status is discovered by the wrong people, I will not be removed for the United States to a potentially dangerous foreign environment.
I will never have to prove how American I am and that I belong in this country, even though I speak the language and have a job/family here. Again, a little Whiteness may be at play here.
I’m not called "undesirable" or “unworthy” for living in the United States. If I am discriminated against, I have the ability to practice my freedom of speech without the fear of deportation through a potential arrest.
I CAN VOTE! Although not all citizens vote, I know that I am partially responsible for selecting the people in government who represent me and create policies that affect all of us.
Want to get involved and connect with other immigrants/allies?
Join us for the eventsI Stand With Immigrants Day of Action and Igniting Consciousness Into the Undocumented Immigrant Experience TODAY Wednesday, October 24th!Also, check out Retriever Immigrants United, a brand new student organization!