Monday, April 20, 2009

Citizen Me! :-)

I am now American!!!! And I have a certificate to prove it!!! :-) And look what my lovely colleagues from HP sent to celebrate--some beautiful flowers!

This morning, about 150 people took part in the oath ceremony at Central Islip courthouse. We each had to surrender our green cards and any US-issued travel documents and/or work permits. And then we repeated the Oath, and the Pledge of Allegiance. The judge talked to us about his family's history--his grandparents had all come to the USA from Italy, through Ellis Island. There was a troop of Cub Scouts there to watch democracy in action. The judge encouraged everyone to participate in the democratic life--to vote and to speak up about issues. He gave out gifts to all the children in the room (a pencil shaped like a judge's gavel). And one of the immigration officers explained what citizenship means to any of the parents of children 17 and under--their children are now citizens too, as long as they can prove their birth, their residence with their parents, and they already have a green card (and even if they don't have a green card, there is a process to allow this to happen). (And for me, whose daughter is over 17, over 21 when we first arrived here, citizenship means that I inform the national visa center so that my petition for her green card is placed much higher in the waiting-line than it was when I was a permanent resident... about five years higher.)

It was quite an emotional morning. I thought I was going to be late, and miss my ceremony, because traffic was nasty, all the lights were red, and Miles, our GPS guy, didn't know that Federal Plaza existed. Luckily I had paper instructions and a sense of direction. Wasn't early, wasn't late. Sitting in the room with all the other people, wondering about their histories, I wondered about being American and was I abandoning my roots??? No... that will never happen! There were 149 other people, all from different backgrounds, all with the same aim of becoming a full citizen in the country we have chosen to live in--regardless of our reasons for being here. There were 48 countries represented in that room this morning! There was a little sadness as I handed over my green card--it's the thing that has allowed me to live and work here for nearly nine years and it's something that you really protect because without it, you're in trouble. So for an hour or so, I had no green card and no proof of citizenship--limbo! Scary! :-)

At the end of the ceremony, we were each issued our certificates of citizenship. With strict instructions not to lose them... because they cost around 600$ to replace.

I wonder... do I now have to fix Miles so that he gives bad turn-by-turn directions in an American accent instead of British?


Lorraine Rimmelin said...

Being born an American, I take for granted my birthrights.
Thank you for sharing your journey to citizenship....

ChristyACB said...


MoGetch said...

Congratulations! My grandmother took the tests in 1918. The first political thing she did was join the NWP and signed up as a Suffragist. She used to say, in her Irish brogue, "I am not Irish, I am an American and I have the right to vote for anything I want."