According to the Center for Immigration Studies, the immigrant population in America has reached 34 million, which is nearly 12 percent of the U.S. population.And in the wake of these rising figures, the federal government has recently proposed raising the bar for perspective United States citizens. According to an L.A. Times article published last week, U.S. immigration officials hope to strengthen the country’s naturalization process by nearly doubling the application fee and requiring applicants to file online. If these strict changes are imposed, the federal government argues that those who actually achieve citizenship will gain a better understanding of American values and a firmer grasp of the country’s history.Many feel that these measures, however, would cut deeply into the pool of immigrants whose educations and financial situations are already weak when they arrive in the United States. This may seem like a stealthy way for the Bush Administration to seriously limit immigration, but this idea is not new: our government is no stranger to enacting stealthy, legal ways of discrimination. These tactics can be traced all the way back to the 1800s, to a time when the 15th Amendment guaranteed every man the right to vote, regardless of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude." What this amendment failed to mention, however, was the fact that literacy tests and poll taxes continued to weigh down on black voters who did not have privileged backgrounds. These issues were ignored until nearly a century later, when the 15th amendment – ratified in 1870 – finally reached its full potential. In 1964, Congress passed the 24th amendment, which did away with poll taxes, and a year later passed the Voting Rights Act. And now, nearly 40 years later, we might be looking at a little bit of history repeating.The proposed changes to the naturalization process call the Bush Administration’s attitude towards immigration into question.Last week, President Bush signed a bill authorizing the construction of 700 miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. Tensions between the U.S. and Mexico have been high in recent years, as millions of Mexicans struggle to leave their country and cross the border each year. Sometimes, they are met with civil opposition.Connie Hair is a spokeswoman for the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a grassroots organization that posts American volunteers along the Mexican border to catch and prevent illegal immigration on the spot. "We’re like a neighborhood watch," she said.Hair is in great support of the proposed fence. She believe that the border is not as secure as it should be, and hopes the President will send at least 10,000 more troops to help civilian surveyors. Our nation is most vulnerable to drug trafficking and arms dealing, according to Hair, both of which are "tied into international terrorism," she said. "They have operational control of our southern border, we don’t," she added.Hair fully supports a good 700-mile fence, not because she thinks the United States needs to maintain good neighbors, but because she feels our country should be shielded from them.But Mexicans represent 19 percent of the workers who joined the labor force in the last decade; it seems this shield would do more harm than good.Our nation was founded on principals of immigration; founded, in fact, by immigrants. The Hudson River once flowed with ships that transported immigrants from around the world to the United States."Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," states the sign welcoming travelers on the Statue of Liberty. Apparently this invitation does not extend to 21st century immigrants traveling outside the tiny New York port.