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“Number 69, number 69,” called an officer of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Number 78, yours truly, was sitting in line at the ASC (the Application Support Center), in Washington state. I was there to renew my green card, the much-coveted U.S. permanent residency permit.

The woman to my left was clutching note number 69. Despite having been summoned time and again, she stayed put. She did not understand English. Like her, the room was packed with applicants who were talking in tongues.

Although a longtime champion of American freedoms, I have decided, for now, against accepting U.S. citizenship, for which a green-card holder is illegible after five years.

Uncle Sam’s foot soldiers assault me whenever I take to the unfriendly skies. And should I leave the U.S., after taking the Oath of Citizenship, IRS agents will fulfill their oath of office and hunt me down.

As the chorus lyrics to that haunting rock classic by the Eagles goes, “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!” In the evocative words to “Hotel California,” Americans who try “running for the door,” soon discover that they “are all just prisoners here. …”

Prisoners of Uncle Sam’s device.

If he can tolerate TSA assaults as he departs the country, a U.S. citizen who chooses to live and work overseas cannot escape the Internal Revenue Service. The United States is perhaps the only country to tax its citizens on income earned while they’re living abroad.

Order lIana Mercer’s brilliant polemical work, “Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa”

Although the government’s citizenship stamp of approval is meaningless, there are risks in rejecting it.

While a U.S. citizen cannot be denied entry whenever he leaves the country and returns home, a green-card holder is essentially asking for permission to re-enter. This, as millions of members in a favored outlaw fraternity stroll across the southern border, giving border patrol the finger (as the other finger dials the ACLU).

Besides, have you ever heard a member of America’s low-brow glitterati and literati advocate for immigrants who are not poor, not brown and not uneducated? I have not – with the exception of Tucker Carlson, a libertarian-leaning rightist.

The scene: “Special Report with Bret Baier,” in a Fox News New York studio.

The participants: The regular “conservative” poseurs competing to craft the most “inspiring” (read schmaltzy) message with which to lure the only immigrants America seems eager to reel in.

Voted “most likely to use U.S. means-tested benefit programs” in their primary school class – poor, unskilled Latinos were being touted by the participants as the GOP’s natural-born constituents, when out of the blue, Tucker Carlson shattered GOP agitprop.

As neoconservative Charles Krauthammer and the banal Nina Easton of Fortune magazine noodled on about their Latino philosophical soul mates – Tucker Carlson averred that screening immigrants [for eligibility] must “begin with a conversation about outcomes.”

“Why is it that immigrants from certain countries have not thrived and immigrants from other countries have thrived?” questioned Carlson. “No one wants to have that conversation because it’s considered mean, but when the future of the country is at stake, it’s worth taking a rational, non-passionate and, by the way, nonpolitical look at outcomes, and asking real questions like, why is it? You’re not attacking anybody. But these are questions that we need to ask because the country is at stake.”

According to the Center for Immigration Studies, 57 percent of Mexican immigrants will go on to use means-tested benefit programs, against only 6 percent of Britons. My experience at the ASC microcosm ought to explain another of the CIS’s findings: Fully “one-fourth of public school students now speak languages other than English at home.”

To flabbergasted glares from his co-panelists, Tucker pressed on:

What is missing in this conversation is the fact that not all immigrants are the same. Immigrants from certain countries go on welfare overwhelmingly. Many Latin American countries send us immigrants who go on welfare. The question is, does the United States need massive new numbers of the low-skilled immigrants in a post-industrial economy? Is that good for the United States? It is not mindless to say all immigrants are good? They are not. Some are, some aren’t. … The Republican Party ought to be courageous enough to draw the distinction between people who add to the sum total of the American economy, who buy [into] the culture, who improve the country, and those who don’t. And there is a difference. Sorry.

Thank you, Mr. Carlson, for doffing the proverbial hat to high-value immigrants; the kind who not only talk about the American creed, but live it; the kind who pay for the largess Republicans seem so eager to dispense.

Alas, from the fact that 23 percent of native-born Americans also use means-tested benefit programs, less-enlightened, open-border libertarians have concluded that it is economically and morally inconsequential to extend taxpayer-funded welfare to millions of unviable non-nationals.

How is this asinine argument different from positing that because a bank has been robbed by one set of bandits (welfare-dependent nationals), repelling or arresting the next gang (welfare-dependent non-nationals) is unnecessary, as the damage has already been done?

It isn’t.

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