Do I Even Want to Live Here Anymore? The Complexities of What it Means to be a U.S. Citizen Today

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“Make America Great Again!” We have all heard Donald Trump and his supporters chant this slogan, over the last few years. But is it really living up to its promise? Well, some people say it is, but some aren’t so convinced. Some Americans are even threatening on leaving the United States, while others have done so already. And no. It’s not who you think it may be. It’s actually U.S. born citizens who are now debating whether or not they should emigrate from the United States.

It is important to note that the majority of Americans are not rushing to the nearest exit to flee the United States. The point here is that many Americans, U.S. born citizens, are contemplating their exit from the United States and that in itself is mind-blowing. 

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Recently, Gallup reported that the percentage of Americans wanting to move out of the country increased from previous years. During the George W. Bush’s era 11 percent of Americans wanted to leave and during Obama’s presidency it was 10 percent. However, that percentage has been bumped up to 16 percent during the current presidency. I want to reiterate once more that these numbers are not what’s shocking. What’s shocking is how a country who has historically opened their doors to immigrants because of its ideologies is now pushing their own people because of its shifting ideologies. 

You would think that these Americans trying to leave the United States are the ones supporting the left, the Democrats, and belonging to the lower-class. Even though that is also true, I want to shine light on the unexpected type of American trying to leave. It is middle-class or Americans who are not particularly struggling financially who are also taking the steps to depart from their home country. 

Also, Canada is not their main destination as it typically is from the troubled American. As accessible as Canada may seem, especially since they’re one of our closer neighbors, there are some restrictions Americans need to override. Something that does not seem to be simple at all. Due to this, these Americans are looking at the larger spectrum of the world for their new place of residence.

These U.S. born citizens have even started funding their departure as they wait for the right moment to pack up their bags. Others have started, with much irony, use the dual citizenship they’ve acquired from their ancestors, while others have their bags packed and ready to go. This is what Yahoo News found when they recently interviewed a few Americans who are not sure they want to live in the United States anymore. 

“The text message threads and Facebook message threads have surged with questions about how and when to leave,” said Elie Jacobs to Yahoo News, a 41-year-old public affairs consultant. 

Jacobs and his immediate family have created an escape plan  to leave New Jersey and start a new life in Israel. This option started becoming more feasible after Donald Trump was elected to be president in 2016. In fact, this is a major driver for many other U.S. citizens in the same boat as Jacobs. 

The reality is that many Americans are displeased with the regimen Trump has enforced upon the nation. This is why some people, like Coloradans Alex and Aussa Lorens, are looking for places that completely opposes such a regimen.

Prior to even flirting with the thought of leaving, the Lorens were preoccupied in thoughts of saving up to buy a house. Once Donald Trump was given the power of commander-in-chief of the United States, the Lorens’ quickly shifted their focus from buying a house to figuring out a way to get out their beloved country. They found their answer when they stumbled upon the 190 Skilled Nominated visa for Australia. 

The 190 Skilled Nominated visa lets nominated skilled workers live and work in Australia as permanent residents.  In order to qualify for this visa, the interested party must provide proof of proficiency in English, have the occupation you desire appear on their skilled list, have a satisfactory score on the skilled assessment for the corresponding occupation the person is inquiring about, be invited to apply for this visa after Australia’s immigration department has reviewed your file, and satisfy the point system Australia has created  for this process. 

Alex Loren was lucky enough to find his industry, which is hospitality, in the skilled list and did everything possible to qualify. It’s definitely not an easy process, but the Lorens’ followed each step with scrupulous attention to detail in hopes to be granted what they sought — a safe place outside of the United States. After completing everything successfully, the Lorens’ were warmly welcomed into Australia. 

They were finally going to be able to relish in amenities that they were not used to such as universal health care, affordable private insurance, mandated parental leave, four weeks of vacation for all workers, and other things that Americans are not used to. But one of the more important reasons for their departure from the states, the place they have grown up, was because Australia offered them the certainty that a Trump-like government was not going to arise. 

 “Their conservative party is more like the moderate Democrats. They don’t argue about whether health care is a basic human right or whether climate change is real. They banned guns after a mass shooting,” said the Lorens. 

Of course shootings was going to come up. It’s no secret that shootings have become far too common in the past few years, notably since Donald Trump was elected. People are afraid, including myself. Places that used to be considered safe are not. It’s disheartening, but maybe it’s time we accept this as America’s new normal.

The prevalence of shootings is yet another reason why U.S. born citizens are opting to make their way out of the land of the free. 

“The way things are going, it’s to where you can’t even take your family out in public because it’s just a matter of time,” says Josh Lewin to Yahoo News.

Josh Lewin is a 34-year-old Murfreesboro, Tennessee native who works selling commercial security systems and lives with his family. His family consists of his wife and four sons ages four to fourteen. 

Lewin is frightened of the current state of the country. He can’t comprehend why this is happening and is worried it might get worse. His main goal is to protect his family and he intends on doing that regardless of how drastic it may seem to others. 

“First it was a shooting once a year, then once every six months, then once a month, and now it’s every day,” Lewin expressed his concern about the shootings.  

The reality is that Lewin and everyone else in his shoes is not wrong to feel this way. The shootings are continuously increasing. Unfortunately, these shootings started becoming more frequent since Trump has taken office. Lewin has always tried not to pick a side when it comes to politics, he usually supported the person representing the United States no matter what. However,  that kind of mentality has become a bit difficult, especially since Trump’s administration has witnessed some of the most deadliest incidents. 

Just a few days ago, there was a drive-by shooting spree in Odessa and Midland, Texas, which left seven people dead and 24 wounded  in Odessa and Midland, Texas, with seven people killed and 24 wounded. What’s even more crazy about this unfortunate event is that hours after this catastrophic incident, Texas loosened its gun laws. I’m sorry, but that does not make sense to me at all, and it doesn’t make sense to many people.

After having had the country experience all these casualties, you would think some extreme measures would be taken to avoid these things from happening in the future, but it hasn’t.

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“We don’t even bat an eye as a country now. I would like to move somewhere where that isn’t true and my kids don’t have to be afraid,” Lewis said. 

Can we really blame him for wanting to leave? Schools, usually seen as sanctuaries for our children, are the most vulnerable they’ve been in years. How is this even possible? It’s as though as we are failing our children. The change in school shootings in the past few has also been dramatic. Thanks to the K-12 school shooting database we are able to see just how bad America has gotten with this issue. How did we get to 110 school shootings in one year and why is the United States not working harder on this issue? 

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Lewin understands that the probability of his family being affected by these shooting is very slim, but he still feels uneasy about the whole situation. He has tried to keep his reservations about the current administration and how things are being handled to himself. This is because he lives among many people he loves, both family and friends, who are Trump supporters. Before he wouldn’t have paid much mind to it since he’s usually not so opinionated in the subject of politics, but things are changing. According to his wife, she recalls him hearing people at work joking about the shootings and calling them a force of natural selection. This, among other things, have motivated him to look into moving to New Zealand. 

One of the things that attracted the Lewins to New Zealand is how quick they took action to rectify the possibility of any future shootings after they had their first one. New Zealand did what Americans can only envision in their wildest dreams — they made it more difficult to buy weapons of war after only enduring one mass shooting in the whole country. Ever since then, New Zealand has experienced very few casualties regarding gun violence. 

Though the Lewins haven’t packed up to leave the United States, they feel as though it’s only a matter of time before they do. 

Someone who did decided to abandon their American roots was Janelle Hanchett. She is a writer who was interviewed by Yahoo News that  left to the Netherlands with her family. 

“It feels saner, more humane,” she says of her new home in the city of Haarlem, the capital of the province of North Holland. “The people seem happier. And there aren’t any guns.”

Hanchett decided to sell all her belongings in Northern California back in July in order to move with her husband, Charles Macdonald, a union ironworker, and their four children to the Netherlands. Though they are not rich, they were still able to comfortably make this life-changing move. 

The Hanchetts determined it was necessary to leave a regime that they felt was becoming too authoritarian and caused them to feel unsafe all the time. Because of this, they applied for the Dutch Freelancer visa. 

Under the Dutch Freelancer visa, they are able to take advantage of all the country’s benefits. This includes universal health care and a reputable education for their children at “Newcomer” schools, which only costs three euros a month. Janelle Hanchett recalls getting emotional when she learned she was receiving so many accommodations once she arrived to the Netherlands. 

It’s good to hear that the Hanchetts were able to find their peace of mind outside of the United States by getting their visas approved, but other people are using other resources to get out of The Land of Liberty. 

Stephanie Schwab is a digital marketer from Chicago who was born and raised in the United States has her escape set to Spain. If it ever gets to that point, she says she’ll have to use the EU passport she inherited from her German ancestors who were victims of the Holocaust. The irony here is as thick as my accent when I get nervous. 

“Wouldn’t it be nutty if we had to escape fascism and anti-Semitism by moving to Spain?” Schwab said of her potential move out the country. 

This is a sentiment that is felt by others who have been granted dual nationality by other countries as a way to erase the inhumane actions of the past. 

For instance, Karen Allendoerfer, whose husband is a German citizen, lives through that same irony as well. She is an American citizen who has made an entire life for herself in the United States, has a family, and a well-established career. For the most part, she is proud, but she does think it would be a peculiar situation to move to Germany to get away from the Nazis. 

Other Americans are looking into Poland as the country of choice if they decide to the place which was once regarded as the land of opportunity. 

In a twisted kind of way, U.S. born citizens who have also been granted citizenship in Poland are truly contemplating leaving to Poland. These people have been granted citizenship by providing proof their grandparents of parents are Polish, which in turn gives them the status of  de facto citizens. This is something that Eleanor Pelta is considering to use in the near future. 

The saddest part of this is that her parents fled Jewish persecution to Poland many years ago and now she feels like she may need to flee whatever future holds for the United States to Poland. Since she is considered Polish, she was able to grant her children the same Polish commodities that she has, including the Polish passport. 

“But these days I’m quite pleased to have dual nationality, and I find it rather ironic that a child of Holocaust survivors would be viewing her Polish passport as an escape route,” Pelta voiced her thoughts on her current situation.

Although these Americans are leaving the United States at their own account, they understand that this too is a privilege not everyone can enjoy. 

The truth is that not everyone can drop their things and move to another country. Many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, so an expense as leaving the United States might not be so attainable. Finding a job in another country might be a task in itself and many have responsibilities they just feel they can’t drop. Another thing that may cause others not to leave is how pricey the visa process other countries require may be. I wonder how many people would be moving out of the country if it were more affordable. 

Aside from affordability, other Americans are also choosing not to leave because they feel that they need to fight for the country they once knew while living in it. 

This is what stops Pam Fradkin from leaving. Fradkin is a queer woman who is an administrative assistant in the Boston-area universtity. She feels as though her sexual orientation can pose as a danger to her in any part of the world. Rather than leaving, she prefers to stay in the United States to fight for the much-awaited end of sexual orientation discrimination, among other things. 

Yet people like Kami Lewis Levin think the best method to combat the current political climate is to get out of the country. This is why she is packed and ready to move to Costa Rica with her family. Levin states she will live in Costa Rica for a minimum of three years, which should be enough time to allow her children to appreciate the privileges that were bestowed upon them in the United States. Maybe then will they be able to be equipped with a mentality to urge others to help the United States in the future, if it ever gets to that point. 

This emigration phenomenon only solidifies the truth in statements that have been made recently about American patriotism. I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t have pride in the United States because I do have it, but sometimes it feels as though this country has a dark cloud over it. The truth of the matter is that Americans are not feeling a lot of national pride. This is based on various factors, which include but are not limited to, gun control (or lack thereof), labor laws, and the environment. 

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As a naturalized American citizen I can say I understand where these people are coming from. I have dual nationality and I’m not going to lie, the thought of leaving sometimes crosses my mind. Don’t  get wrong, I enjoy all the perks the United States has provided me, but some things are getting out of hand. Something that gets to me is the “Make America Great Again” chant. Why is it that Americans are using a chant similar to what Adolf Hitler had once used? Why are we caging children? Why have hate crimes increased in the past three years? 

The only thing we can do now, whether you’re a U.S. born citizen, naturalized American citizen, or just someone living in the United States, is to start getting involved in politics as soon as possible. Canvas, campaign, or whatever you feel most comfortable in doing. Remember, we have the power to turn anything around. 

All of this reminds me of a poem I once wrote for my college’s literary magazine. I’ll leave you to it: 

Poem Guisell Gomez United States

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