I am a green card holder in the USA in a mathematics academic career. Recently, in a discussion, I criticized various aspects of the USA, especially its politics. A citizen rebutted with "If you don't like it here, why are you here?" (Implicitly saying: "As an expat, you don't have a right to criticize the USA's politics.")

The possible responses that came to mind were the following.

  1. In spite of its problems it is still a good place for a STEM academic career and having a green card makes it easier to travel across the world for academic work.

  2. There are other immigrant-friendly countries which are good for a STEM academic career, however Canada is too cold and Australia/New Zealand are too far from anywhere!

  3. The USA needs people like me and so the opinions of people like me do matter at least a bit. If the society/state here becomes too unattractive for people like, it will be the USA's loss.

  4. The USA is largely populated by (willing or unwilling) immigrants.

Since the question was asked somewhat aggressively and none of the above answers appeared adequate/appropriate, I did not actually respond.

This question is primarily addressed to those who are expatriates in the USA, but others please feel free to respond as well.

Q1: How would you respond to this question?

This related/secondary question is primarily addressed to those who are in STEM academic careers, but others please feel free to respond as well.

Q2: Do you think that other countries are becoming more attractive for people in STEM academic careers?

  • 3
    "The USA needs people like me" - you're going to have to let go of that notion if you want Americans to productively engage in discussion with you. (Source: I was an expat in the US for 12 years.) Jun 27, 2022 at 4:52
  • 3
    I would respond that it's none of anyone's business why I'm here, and even if I have good reasons to be here it doesn't mean I absolutely must like everything that happens. That's a typical American xenophobic response to any criticism, though, and no matter how you respond - it's not going to change their minds. Americans are very close-minded when it comes to seeing shortcomings in their system, and I've seen very few Americans outside of the cosmopolitan metropolitans (NY/Boston/SFBay/LA and maybe Chicago) who take criticism about the US well. Voting to close as an opinion poll.
    – littleadv
    Jun 27, 2022 at 23:34
  • How does having a green card make it easier to travel across the world for academic work? A green card is meaningless to other countries.
    – fpmurphy
    Jul 4, 2022 at 4:09

3 Answers 3


There is no good answer to that question. Assuming the person asking is not a straight up racist and/or nationalist, it is very likely you brought up so much criticism and so little love for the US that they indeed wondered why you were there in the first place.

There is a huuuge difference how you express your criticism especially on hot topics:

Man this country is really fucked up with all it's gun nuts. You guys are crazy!

Or the alternative:

This is such a beautiful country and most of the people are really nice and welcoming. But I would still feel safer if there weren't so many guns around.

If you go all evening with the first line of criticism, topic after topic, at some point in the evening someone will ask you why you are here. Probably in any country. If there is nothing to like about it, why bother being there.

Once you get asked that question, you have lost. There is no good way forward. You already dug your own grave in that conversation. The only way to "win" is to not play. Make sure that you tell what you like about the country once in a while.

If you do end up in that corner, you are way past an answer based on logic. The other person is already angry and biased. Very abstract thinking like "well, on a macro economic scale the country needs people like me in the long run" is not going to cut it and even your personal reasons might be seen as rather... exploitative ("I hate it here, but I will get an education and run"). So try humor. Say something like "Dude, did you look out the window recently? There is a surfer's beach 15 minutes from here by foot. I considered Canada, but I didn't want to ride a moose to the nearest frozen lake for figure skating all summer." Might work and defuse the situation. Might not. But the other's surely won't, so this is your best shot.


Some possible answers:

“When I went to school, our teachers taught us not to take **** from anyone. That served me very well all my life. And I want start doing it now, when I live in the freest country in the world.”

“If you don’t like free speech, why don’t you move to Russia?”

  • But but but... They are. There's not much difference in the modus operandi between the Republican Party and the CPSU...
    – littleadv
    Jun 29, 2022 at 1:54

If you don't like it here, why are you here?

Because I like being able to say what I dislike about politics without fear of imprisonment.

Another point, perhaps unlikely to be of use in the discussion you describe, but possibly useful in similar discussions, is that even though they cannot vote in federal elections, green card holders are exempt from the prohibition against foreign political contributions:

Foreign national” defined

As used in this section, the term “foreign national” means—
(1) ...
(2) an individual who is not a citizen of the United States or a national of the United States (as defined in section 1101(a)(22) of title 8) and who is not lawfully admitted for permanent residence, as defined by section 1101(a)(20) of title 8.

(Emphasis added)

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