Paul Kusuda’s column
                Immigrants and descendants of immigrants

      Another year has gone by, and I have to remember to use 2009 now instead of 2008. Each year I have to go
through a personal retraining process, and each year I make errors for a month or so. It’s never easy to substitute a new
habit for an old one. But, it’s something that’s got to be. Too often, our way of thinking is actually not the way we might
want it to be. We have some attitudes, some unconscious biases, that occasionally interfere with the way we want to
be perceived.
      Most children of immigrants want to blend in with the crowd. They try their best to appear like those in mainstream
culture. However, many feel more comfortable in social situations to be with others who look somewhat like themselves
or have similar skin color. That goes for Whites as well as non-Whites. Some of us may feel uncomfortable when we
happen to be with immigrants, more so if they have difficulty talking as we do — in English, that is, American English.
Conversation is hard to come by at best; we move away from uncomfortable situations.          Some of us have distorted
notions about immigrants, especially if we happen to be two or three generations removed from those who came from
other countries.
      Undocumented immigrants cannot become naturalized American citizens regardless of their desire. They may
desire American citizenship because of a variety of reasons, including the fact that their children born in the United
States are American by birth. The total number of undocumented immigrants is obviously not known, but estimates go
as high as 12 to 13 million people. I don’t know how such estimates can be made; however, it’s clear that the number
is large. Also, it’s clear that not all are Hispanic, not all immigrated from Mexico or South America; they have also
come from Canada, Europe, and other places. The general negative attention is primarily directed toward
undocumented immigrants who are Hispanic. Especially in states bordering Mexico but also in other nearby states,
national attempts to deal with immigration issues are often met with misunderstanding  and lack of clear thinking.
Prejudice and emotional responses becloud meaningful attempts to formulate possible solutions and to deal with
possible unanticipated results. Issues must be discussed dispassionately and truly understood locally. However, any
viable solution must come through joint agreement of the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives, and the
President.         
      Both immediate consequences and long-term effects must be considered in arriving at a resolution of the issues
involving undocumented immigrants. Our federal government should establish and adequately fund mechanisms to
encourage and assist currently undocumented immigrants to become naturalized U.S. citizens. Specific conditions
should be promulgated to clarify for those antagonistic to the idea that so-called illegal aliens could become eligible
for naturalization processes. Such conditions could include consideration of recent and past criminal backgrounds,
both in the U.S. and in other countries. Verbal and written references from neighbors and friends could be requested.
A continuous length of stay in the U.S. could be mandated (perhaps, five or six years) through documentations such as
rent or utility receipts, credit reports, letters written to the involved person(s). Kinship relationships could be
investigated. Other conditions could also be noted and included as prerequisites to an application for naturalization.
Barriers to naturalization procedures should be eliminated or reduced. Such barriers include high fees accompanying
stages along the way to naturalization and an inordinate amount of paperwork . Adequate federal funds should be
provided to assure an adequate and trained staff,  plus additional field offices.
      At present in Wisconsin, for example, the only office is in Milwaukee. Study of immigrant population centers
should reveal siting for offices in locations in addition to Milwaukee. An alternative approach could be the
establishment of field offices staffed by traveling teams who occupy such offices one or two weeks per month. The
concept of encouraging naturalization of long-time undocumented immigrants should not be confused with current
concerns about illegal aliens crossing our borders with Canada and Mexico. That is a different  issue to be dealt with
separately. Illegal entries must be thwarted; I agree. But my concern is with the millions of undocumented immigrants
who have lived in the U.S. for years as law-abiding, productive and gainfully employed neighbors and gainfully
employed neighbors.