Here's an American's perspective on that...
Having been born an American, I can see why it would seem so appealing. We do have a lot of nifty things going on here from time to time. A lot of it is pretty damn cool. But let me tell you about the darker side of America before you think it's all apple pie and nights at Wrigley Field.
I have a friend who is a Christian preacher. He's a pretty unconventional sort. He's one of the few preachers I've met that has real street smarts and he earned them the hard way. He did missionary work in, of all places, Chicago. One night he was doing his thing, trying to convince some kids to get away from a crack house and step into a church. Pretty noble, right? Well, the kids thought so. Whenever he went into what many consider to be hell, he was left alone. He's caucasian, he's openly homosexual and he's a fairly small guy, but he believes in God and the people he worked so hard to help spiritually respected him utterly because he held firm to his beliefs and never judged them.
Well, on this singular night there was a police raid. He was actually inside the crack house and the kids around him knew what was up before he did. They told him what was about to happen and that he might want to get his ID out and act passively. He did so immediately. The cops came busting in moments later, their guns out, and charged into the room he was in. He held his arms out as a sign of passivity and loudly identified himself as a preacher. Did that stop the cops? Nope. The female cop apparently had a bad day or something. He doesn't really know. Maybe she was just one of those cops you hear about but chalk up to some sort of twisted urban legend, like cops aren't really like that. They protect and serve, right? This lady charged at him with her night stick out and proceeded to beat this preacher man senseless. He didn't resist, he didn't try to put up a fight, he didn't try to run; he just kept shouting who he was and what he was doing there. The woman didn't hear him or didn't believe him or didn't want to believe him. She broke his jaw, his upper left arm and severely bruised portions of his back. The other cops came on the scene by the time she was done and they simply dumped him into a paddy wagon with the other kids (who had been similarly abused). My friend kept silent, not because he felt it would be useless but because he physically couldn't speak. The "bad" kids who'd been taken away with him kept telling the cops that they were in big trouble, they were headed to Hell for beating up a man of God. True words fallen upon deaf ears.
My friend spent three days in jail until the cops finally got off their asses and discovered his identity. They released him into a friend's custody at which time he was taken to the hospital and treated for his wounds. A few days later, he came back to lodge a complaint with the desk sergeant. The desk sergeant's response was, "Officer So-n-so? Oh, no. Can't be. She's been on leave for the last month. You must have the badge number and name wrong. You were hit pretty hard, right? Don't you think you could be making a mistake?"
My friend didn't get the hint. He went to IA, Internal Affairs, the cops' cops. He spent a good hour on the phone being bounced around from person to person until one of them said, clearly and plain as day, "Hello, Dave. You live at X-address and your social security number is XXX. Not only do we know everything about you, but we have a good bit of information on your entire family. You keep pressing this issue and you might get pulled over one day and some smart cop might find a pound of coke in your back trunk. Am I making myself clear?"
My friend dropped the case.
That's just one situation upon thousands that I've heard in my years in this country. What for all the wonderful, incredible, amazing things this country has to offer, there are countless more insidious things lurking in shadows most people don't even know exist until it's too late. The Chinese immigration process, for instance, is a nightmare. It's an open secret that China isn't all that respectful of human rights. Many of that nation's citizens flee to America, most in the absolutely worst of conditions, only to get here and find even more persecution waiting for them. Chinese citizens don't get to meet with the American INS when they come ashore. Oh, no. They instead get put in prison until their case comes up for review, sometimes years after they've come here. This is no bullshit. It's ugly, it sucks, it's corrupt and inhumane, but true. Of course, not all Chinese immigrants are treated this way- only the ones that China would like to make miserable just a tad bit more. This is the kind of "fringe benefit" to having a major trade agreement with China that many people don't know about.
Another fine issue in America is the one about guns. I know that in England guns can be found, but trust me, not to the extent that they can be here. I can (and have) go out and in twenty minutes procure a lethal weapon for less than $50 (roughly thirty quid by your standards). Scary? Maybe not. But what if I'd just had a fight with my wife/girlfriend/child and I was really pissed and drunk? What if I was so outrageously out of my gourd that I had murder on the brain? In less than an hour I could take out quite a few people before I was stopped- if I got stopped at all. There are literally hundreds of unsolved murder cases each year in this country. Most homicides are carried out by someone who is close to the victim, but illogical deaths can and do occur with just as much ease.
Let's say you're an American who works for minimum wage on a daily basis. That's $5.75, or roughly three quid, an hour. Okay. Most places won't allow a min-wage employee to work 40 hours a week because most places are too damn stingy to pay potential overtime. If overtime is earned, many places will roll your hours back the next week so that it all pans out by the end of the pay period (usually bi-weekly). Screwed. It gets worse, though. Let's say you catch that new flu bug that's going around from, say, a customer. You're ill, ill, ill. Can't-stand-up-and-vomit kind of ill. Can't move, can't talk, can't eat, can't think. Your boss gives you exactly 2 days to be out of work before he can legally fire you for truancy. What's worse is that the money you do make is all eaten up by food, rent, utilities, pets (if you're bold enough to own any) and whatever else. Doctor? Hell, you're lucky if you can afford Band-Aids, let alone a doctor. There is no such thing as socialized medicine in this country. Tough shit. Hope you get well soon. Believe it or not, the majority of American citizens live like this. Land of opportunity, right?
Here's another: let's say you're a citizen that has most things going for you. You're intelligent, able-bodied, well paid, housed and you're even responsible enough to own a gun- which is your law-given right, thanks to the NRA. The Constitution, you say? Who're we kidding here? 200 years ago guns were damn near necessary because if some stragling soldier in a war didn't try to overtake your house at the time, then you'd damn sure have to go hunting for food because Kroger's Supermarket doesn't exist. Guns are a major industry in this country, don't you forget that. As long as it remains so, laws will be made to keep them around. Anyway... let's say you're asleep one night and you hear a bump downstairs. You're a law-abiding citizen, right? You've got your weapon in the nightstand and the ammo somewhere else nearby, but not loaded. You load your weapon and go stealthily downstairs. You see the robber as he's about to hoist your TV out the window. You identify yourself, tell him you're carrying a gun and order him to lie down. Instead, he turns and is brandishing his own illegally bought gun and aims it at you. You shoot, he falls. Guess what? You're in big trouble, legally speaking. Yes, he was trespassing, but the law says that anyone who is shot and not killed may press charges of attempted manslaughter or aggravated assault regardless of the location or circumstances. He/she might not win the case if you can afford a lawyer, but affording a lawyer is a hard thing a lot of the time. Somehow you've become the defendant while at the same time being the victim. Odd, huh?
Care to drive through those rolling hills of grain? Most states require insurance. Insurance companies fleece the American citizenry almost as rapaciously as the IRS. On a min-wage job, you're likely to not afford insurance, and if you can, they might drop you for having anything so much as a speeding ticket- and watch your rates soar with any other company because you've been dropped by someone else. Get stopped by a cop in a state where insurance is required, when you're uninsured, and you've got a one-way ticket to jail, court or the bank to refinance that junk heap of yours so that you can pay the minimum $500 fine.
Living in America, being in this country, isn't all it's cracked up to be. A lot of what those of you in other countries see is fluff and Hollywood and ESPN, but there is a darker side to this country that a lot of people either don't think to talk about or want to talk about. Other countries have their challenges, too, but that's par for the course, right? I applaud anyone's desire to be an American, but before you walk into this country with the intention of staying, I urge you to keep your eyes open and, perhaps, have a friend around to watch your back. You'll need it.
My response to FastEddie's rebuttal:
Man, I hear ya. I do. "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the Selfish and the tyrannies of evil men." Ezekiel 25:17. No matter where we go in this world, there are hardships. I guess it all comes down to this: "No matter where you go, there you are." - Buckaroo Bonzai.
I've spent a month in London, England. It was a great trip, but during my time there I immersed myself in that city, trying my best to find its faults and similarities to home here in the United States. I found skin heads beating old homeless men, I watched Hindi women get verbally abused in ways that would make some bigots in this country blush, coppers turning a blind eye to crimes happening right in front of them not thirty yards away. Corruption and evil are so engrained in this world that it simply can't be escaped anywhere.
America is a fantastic place to live, most of the time- and if you mind your P's and Q's. But it scares me when people hail its best qualities while ignoring the bad ones in their WU's. The reason it scares me is that there might be someone out there who isn't American and isn't aware of the travesties that occur here. Such a person might get it in their head that this is the place to be and after they fight tooth and nail to get here, they might be in store for a rude awakening. There are pro's and con's to everything. My best and kindest advice to anyone would be to look at their homeland with the same eyes that they see America. Look for the best qualities where you live and try to appreciate them more. Things suck sometimes, but in the long run there truly is no better place than home. It's as much a part of you as it is something you try to get away from.
Consider the child who grows up and makes a mad dash to get out of their parents' home. The parents might be very good people, but the child's impression is that independence is the only thing that will make them happy. When they finally get into the world of adults, they find things are much different than they'd hoped. If someone tries to come to America, I urge them also to take the best stuff of their own homeland with them and keep those qualities pure in their heart. After all, your home is where your heart is.