Have you ever committed a crime or offense for which you were not arrested? In other words: have you ever done something illegal (anything at all) but never gotten caught for it? If so, and you are a legal resident applying for US citizenship, you legally must admit all details of your crime, and essentially turn yourself in. The direct question is part of the US government's current INS (Immigration & Naturalization Services) form for permanent residents, who have been here in the USA for over five years, who are applying for US citizenship. The form in question is the N-400 INS Application for Naturalization ten page questionnaire. It must be accompanied by a money order for approx $400, a fee that is scheduled to increase substantially by the end of this month when it's raised to $675. As a result there's been a significant surge in the number of applicants at INS offices around the US trying to get the application process rolling by the July 30th cutoff date for the lower application fees. NOTE: Due to the huge rush on INS offices, the same day this AMOEBLOG was posted, the date for the new rates was extended until August 17th.
But the fee increase is only one reason for the rush. The other reasons are more serious and are rooted in the new post 9/11 America -- where racial profiling has become more common a practice and border crossing has gotten increasingly more difficult for non-Americans, even if they are US "residents' or Green Card holders. More importantly, the consequences of the possible new immigration laws means that many immigrants, especially Mexicans, whose status is currently "Alien" figure that now is the time to up their status and try to become US citizens.
More than ever before in American history it's just much more convenient to be a US citizen. And as anyone who holds a Green Card will tell you, there is a big difference between being a US passport holder and a "Resident Alien." I mean, come on, just the word "alien?" How can that possibly make one feel welcome and wanted in a new land? Truth is, "aliens" can be treated as second-rate citizens. And for many Green Card holders re-entering the US there can be delays and INS questioning that US citizens wouldn't endure at the airport. And as for non-US residents just visiting, It's even worse. As most music fans already know, countless foreign bands have been barred from entering the US due to immigration status and have consequently been unable to do scheduled US shows/tours. This past week's Village Voice has a good story about bands from Canada being denied visitor's visas. Entitled "Blame Canada" and penned by Scott Indrisek, it addresses the tide of artists from North of our border being denied entry as a fear-based result of "amped-up visa fees, byzantine union policy, surly customs authorities, and a post-9/11 climate of aggressive paranoia." As any frequent flyer knows, posted throughout US airports these days are warnings of the seriousness of even making a "joke" about anything deemed threatening. Of course, the biggest joke at the airport is those ill-efficient, grumpy, TSA workers (who, to their credit, are paid shit, so don't blame them) who, instead of making the country safer, make air travel slower (not to mention an extra five bucks tagged onto your ticket price for every trip through airport security).
But back to the question -- have you ever committed a crime but not gotten caught doing it? This question is on page 8 on the INS application form under the heading "Good Moral Character." Elsewhere in that same section, applicants to the USA are asked if they have ever trafficked in drugs or if they have ever been a prostitute. And then there is one "moral character" question that sounds like it's been on the immigration books since the 1800's. It asks: Have you ever been a habitual drunkard?