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American citizenship: a right, a responsibility, an honor

American citizenship: a right, a responsibility, an honor
New American citizens wave flags after taking the oath of citizenship at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J., on Sept. 19. (John Moore / Getty Images)

To the editor: Citizenship confers the ability to produce change in your community, whether you were born here or you made the decision to adopt this place as your new home. Citizenship in America is the ability to elevate the culture, not by dividing it but by providing and enriching it with the best of all cultures. ("The meaning of U.S. citizenship," Editorial, Oct. 4)

Citizenship is not only a benefit to those who belong to a country; it is also a responsibility. It is the responsibility to understand and participate in the continuous process that makes this country better every day. It is being able to know where you come from as a country in the historical context, to understand the possibilities and to make an effort to reach a better state of wellness as a country.

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Citizens are the representation of an ideal; thus, citizenship is a great responsibility and an honor that a member of a society can have.

Pedro Perez, Whittier

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To the editor: I have been providing pro bono legal help to asylum-seekers for more than 25 years. I have found that immigrants to this country have a vastly greater appreciation for the liberties that the rest of us take for granted.

I was once told by a pro-democracy activist that he withstood torture because he understood that there was a cost for freedom.

I paid nothing for my U.S. citizenship; I was born with it. Others paid dearly for the privilege of being an American citizen, and I believe they value it accordingly.

William O. Holston Jr., Dallas

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To the editor: The writer is executive director of the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas.

To me, the essence of America is that self-government is possible and that in this country, we are all equal under the law. To protect the first and make the second reality, United States citizenship obligates us to be both informed and active.

Study American history as a lifelong pursuit. Respond loudly when journalists expose public corruption and injustice. Examine the issues and candidates put before us, and then vote. Contact your representatives so they know we are watching. Show up at a city hall meeting or wave a protest sign.

Do something, anything, to participate in governing, because American citizenship should not be a spectator sport.

Otherwise, we might as well just have a king.

Joanne Zirretta, Aliso Viejo

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To the editor: As a naturalized American citizen, discussions on immigration reform get my attention. However, before taking part in any discussion on this subject, I like to clarify what the meaning of "reform" is to the other person. If it's blanket amnesty, then a dialogue on the topic may not be possible.

The process of reform is complex, and because it involves humans, these laws should be fair and compassionate. Accepting that breaking the law requires consequences is the first step.

Any reform should address the length of time an immigrant has been in the country, and based on that and other factors (such as not having a criminal record), a working permit or a green card could be issued. Learning English — at the very least to speak it — is a must.

And under no circumstances should anyone who has entered the country without proper documentation or stayed here after a visa has expired be allowed the privilege of voting. Breaking the law should not be rewarded.

I do realize that my views may not be politically correct in some parts of our society, but thank God this is a nation where one is free to express one's opinions.

Elsita P. Smith, Santa Barbara

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