New Americans

When 25 immigrants from 11 countries stood before a U.S. magistrate earlier this month and took the oath of U.S. citizenship, they represented the best of the American dream. They had met the requirement of five years of legal residence in the United States, possessed good moral character and had received the approval of 14 government agencies.

As new citizens, they are eligible to participate fully in their new government in ways taken for granted by native-born Americans. They can hold jobs, contribute to and collect Social Security, open bank accounts, pay taxes, vote, express their opinions, raise families, get an education, travel abroad under the protection of a U.S. visa, get a driver's license, obtain mortgages and car loans and shoot off fireworks on the Fourth of July.

There is a stark contrast between the new Americans who participated in the naturalization ceremony and those millions of illegal immigrants who now seek benefits from a government they have defied by choosing to break American immigration laws rather than obey the rules.

These new Americans -- who filled out all the paperwork, learned to speak English, waited the required length of time, found jobs and swore to uphold the U.S. Constitution -- are well on their way by making important contributions to our society.

That's the difference between legal and illegal immigrants: One gives back to the nation that embraces them, while the other takes from it.