I want to talk about entitlements.
Not the kinds Republicans talk about (although I will get to that) — a kind of entitlement that every single person born in the United States has access to, just because of accident of birth, and is so systematic that we forget it is there.
If I want to go almost anywhere in the world, I can. It’s up to me to find money and fill out paperwork, but if I want to, I can. Some places are “difficult” for Americans, to get to — as an example, this article points out how hard it is to get to Russia:
It’s so hard to enter Russia that you could be mistaken for thinking we were still in the middle of the Cold War. In order to visit the country, Americans must fill out a form that asks for vital national security information such as where you went to high school, your last three places of employment, your parents’ names, and how many cavities you have (OK, I may have made that last one up).
The point, though, is that it’s an utterly ridiculous application. Add to that the necessity of getting an invitation from a company inside Russia, knowing your exact dates of entry and exit, and listing your itinerary makes getting a Russian visa a nightmare.
No. It is not a nightmare. It is annoying. If you want to go to Russia, you can go to Russia. This is not to say that the author of the article above is misinformed, but to say that for us, having to list your itinerary makes us feel like we’re in chains.
For much of the world, leaving your home country simply isn’t an option. Talk about chains.
Recently, we invited my in-laws to come see us, to meet their new grandchild and visit America for the first time. The “utterly ridiculous” application of the Russian visa example was just the start of what needed to be done to get into America. We needed proof of our relationship to them, proof that they had enough money to visit for the month, proof of a return ticket (so we had to buy the airline ticket before knowing whether they would get visas or not), proof of their work status and taxes filed in Ukraine, proof of other family members and assets in Ukraine…we put together 30 pages of bank statements, invitation letters, pictures, explanations, and itineraries. Everything had to be done in English, which they don’t speak, and the cost of the application was $160 (average salary in Ukraine: $289 a month), not to mention the cost of traveling to Kyiv and spending two nights there in order to have an in-person interview.
With relatives in America, a clear reason to visit (new grandchild), proof of intent to return/salary/etc., somebody who could help them with the complicated English, and return-trip tickets purchased, they were denied visas. They cannot leave Ukraine.
The truth of the matter is, to leave an economically troubled country, and come to a country like the United States, is simply impossible for many.
When politicians talk about how people who want to immigrate should just “get in line,” it makes me furious. For the average person who wants to escape their country’s economy, immigration to America is not a matter of waiting in line. It’s just not possible. Even leaving their country for a short visit is impossible.
Republicans talk about “entitlements,” and how we have built up an economy wherein people have no choice but to be dependent on the system, and the only way to save the masses from their own dependence on economic aid is to cut out entitlements. The thought process is that nobody should be allowed certain things (life necessities) just because they are poor. What they forget, though, is that every last one of us, themselves included, is a part of an entitlement system so deeply ingrained that nobody even notices it.
Americans are entitled to all sorts of things that other people in the world are not: freedom to travel, a decent chance at living above the poverty level, roads and schools and libraries that work. When they talk about “entitlements,” though, what they are really talking about are “entitlements that I don’t partake in.” It’s easy to shout about cutting off entitlements for icky poor brown people. When entitlements keep those icky poor brown people out of your country, though? By all means, keep them coming.