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Editorial: There’s a reason United States has drawn immigrants for 243 years

No matter what manner of trials and tribulations have – and continue to – beset America, there always seems to be a long line at the door.

That should be no surprise. Despite our problems, our country still remains a beacon for those hoping to improve their lives due to the freedoms guaranteed to us by our forefathers.

It seems many of us have forgotten that – especially as election season gains steam. The first Democratic debates were filled with criticism about what is wrong with our nation.

As Americans we should not forget how lucky we are to be able to take for granted the opportunities here.

You can criticize the government – organize a march, hang a flag upside down or even burn it, post a screed online for the world to read – and not worry that a poisoned handshake or prison cell will be the consequence.

That freedom is why the colonists came here in the first place, creating a precedent that has resulted in the U.S. likely taking in more refugees than any other nation since World War II, with more than 2 million moving here since 1980.

Talk to any immigrant – whether a resident here 30 years or three – and they will talk about how lucky they are to be in the U.S. How they can live without fear from the government, how they are not forced to pay corrupt officials at every turn, how educational opportunities exist for all.

The attractiveness of America as a home is underscored by the fact that, every year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services welcomes 700,000 to 750,000 new citizens during naturalization ceremonies.

According to USCIS, over the past decade, America has gained a whopping 7.4 million new citizens via naturalization. In fiscal 2016 alone, the most recent year data are available, America gained 752,800 new citizens via that route, as well as some 20,500 individuals, or about 28% of the total 73,081 cases, via application for asylum.

So, why is America such a beacon to people from all walks of life and from all over the world? Of course, America’s shining seas and waves of amber grain, as well her purple mountain majesties, are awe-inspiring, but it is undoubtedly America’s way of life – that despite all the political rhetoric, many have the opportunities to live a life free of fear and persecution.

Of course our nation has troubles – serious ones. We have endemic pockets of generational poverty, mental illness and opioid addiction, gun violence, and bigotry and racism. But we also have the resources, and resourcefulness, and responsibility, to help ourselves and our fellow Americans make each of our own corners of the country better than when we found them. That’s something that should unite us in these fractured political times.

As we celebrate 243 years of independence, this – and every – Fourth of July is the perfect time to pause and truly appreciate what we have and celebrate why so many people around the world want to come here, stand beside us, and share in building all that makes America great.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.