Michael Wu wants to become an American citizen. He is 25 years old and has lived in San Diego with his Taiwanese parents since 1980. He speaks English and Chinese, works packing newspapers for recycling, and attends school. He loves baseball and swimming and wants to join the U.S. Navy. By all accounts he is hardworking and loves the United States. But there’s one little problem: he can’t pass the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s citizenship exam. He has taken the test six times. Michael, you see, has Down’s Syndrome.

Representative Bill Lowery, Republican from San Diego, introduced H.R. 1917, which stipulates that “for purposes of section 322(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, Michael Wu shall be considered to be a child under 18 years of age.” That way, he can be naturalized without taking the test. The bill for the relief of Michael Wu, born Jiun Kai Wu in the Republic of China, in 1966, is one of those special bills targeted at individuals. According to the San Diego Union profile of Michael, hundreds of these bills are introduced, but only about 15 pass. Praise be.

But this is one piece of legislation that seems destined to become law. “He knows what it means to be a citizen of this nation and would truly appreciate the honor of joining the rest of his family as full citizens,” Representative Lowery says, and for some reason there’s every reason to believe that. Moreover, “Michael is the kind of person who represents the best of what this nation is about: someone who has obstacles to overcome but who does his best to succeed and appreciates the opportunities given to him.” That, no doubt, is true as well.

Representative Lowery’s bill passed the House by voice vote on November 20 and as of last April awaited floor action in the Senate. If for no other reason, Michael Wu is destined to become a citizen because only an ogre would vote against a bill to make him a citizen. Sure, immigration is a problem, but this one case is very special, right? Well, yes, it is, and I probably couldn’t vote against giving Michael Wu the life in these United States he wants. I’m against immigration, but I’m not a meanie. Moreover, in practical terms there’s really no reason to oppose Lowery’s bill. For one thing, Michael’s already been here 12 years. What’s the alternative to giving him citizenship? Kicking him out? Truth is, there’s a good reason for any lawmaker to cast his vote for Michael: Christian charity.

And Michael Wu, really, isn’t the problem, leaving aside for now the precedent his case would set (his special education teacher wants to “remove [immigration] barriers for the learning disabled”). The problem is immigration. The time has come for our national leadership to stop conferring citizenship to every Tom, Dick, and Wu who wants it. True enough, on the margin, Michael Wu’s mere presence in America won’t affect the body politic. But Down’s Syndrome aside, there’s more than one Michael Wu.

His brothers and parents are here too, along with the rest of the Chinese immigrants who flooded California over the last century or so, not counting the Thais, Cambodians, Vietnamese, and Laotians who landed ashore after our ill-fated, ill-conceived venture in Southeast Asia, or those from Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras coming across the Rio Grande in droves, and the many others from the Third World who desire American citizenship. Unlike Michael Wu, these folks don’t want to change for us. They want us to change for them.

A hundred years ago, someone who made it to the United States, a difficult task back then, wanted American citizenship for the right reasons: to become a member of a unique civilization that had sprung up from an unsettled, virgin land; to adopt that civilization’s morals and values, its work habits and pastimes and its language and customs and heritage. That isn’t true anymore, except maybe in this special case. Michael, you see, will never be a millionaire. He is simpleminded, with an IQ of 60, and he wants to be a citizen for one reason and one reason only. It means something to him. He doesn’t value American citizenship for material gain.

Not so for the many aliens in our cities who see the United States as a vehicle to personal prosperity and nothing more. They’re here for the welfare payments, schools, and free lunch, and they have no more intention of shucking the Third World they’ve lugged across the border than they have in going back after they make their millions. Once here, they’re here for good, disrupting our institutions, like public schools, with foreign languages, pagan religions, and oddly spiced foods. Cheek out New York City, and you’ll find a public school system that will hire one language expert to teach one child from Ouagadougou.

A recent story in the Washington Post illustrates the problem. An enterprising reporter found a Mexican immigrant, not a citizen, who said he had no intention of teaching his kids English and making them Americans. But that wasn’t going to stop him from using the public schools and getting the benefits every other American citizen gets: Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps, and everything else. ABC’s 20/20 recently brought attention to the multitudes of pregnant Mexicans who sneak across the border to bear their children (oftentimes with the help of immigrant midwives) because the children get citizenship. That means mama and papa can return when young Paco hits 18, because he is, you understand, an “American.”

Sure, Michael Wu is preferable to the type of immigrants discussed above, and he’s preferable to Willie Horton and the rest of the alienated underclass seething with resentment toward the rest of us. The question, however, is where we should draw the line. Drawing it for the benefit of the American nation would exclude the hard cases like Michael Wu. But we all know, as the cliche goes, hard cases make bad law.