A Citizen of the U.S. After 20 Years




It was on July 4th, 1987 when I came to Moline, the city I live in, to start a new life in the United States.  I remember my cousins lighting fireworks at my grandparent’s yard and thinking that it was a really nice welcoming.  Then I was told that it was Independence Day in the United States and that on that day people usually light fireworks.  So, I guess I’m not that special, but I still celebrated just like my cousins who were born here.  It is also

special for me because it represents another year that I have lived in my new country.
Now almost 20 years after I came to stay, I have been officially “adopted” by this nation and it feels great!  On June 1, 2007 inside a U.S. District Court in Rock Island, Ill., 30 immigrants, including myself, took part in the oath of allegiance ceremony.  There were people from just about every continent.  They came from Korea, England, Canada, Mexico, Bosnia and other countries that I frankly never even heard of before.  The judge instructed those who were becoming citizens to stand up and say what countries we came from, and he then instructed us to look around at each other.
“This is America,” he said.
The different races, ethnicities, different accents, that I saw and heard that day now officially belonged to this unique country that thrives from the people that comes from around the globe for a better future.  They bring their talent, their stories and knowledge to this nation.  Some of the greatest U.S. citizens were naturalized citizens that were born elsewhere.  According to The Citizen’s Almanac, which was given to all 30 of us, Alexander Hamilton, Alexander Graham Bell, Albert Einstein, Bob Hope and Celia Cruz were all naturalized citizens.
Now, there are many reasons why it feels great to finally be recognized as a U.S. citizen.  For starters, I can now vote.  There have been so many elections that I wanted to take part in but I was never allowed to.  It always felt as my opinion didn’t matter or like I was not good enough.  Basically I didn’t count.  I used to have to explain this to people when they would ask who I voted for in presidential elections.  It’s surprising how many people don’t know what the difference is between a permanent resident and an undocumented immigrant, and how you don’t have as many rights and sometimes even risk deportation.  Not that I want to be a criminal, but during that time if I were ever to commit a felony, I would be subject to deportation.  A rule that makes a lot of sense, but it’s just the fact that you could be kicked out of the country for life that makes you a little uneasy.
The residency limbo can be a hassle at some points.  The last renewal of a permanent resident card cost me close to $300.  The application for citizenship cost about $200 back then (now it’s a lot higher and goes up every year).  Not to mention the interviews, taking pictures, driving hours for fingerprints, the English and history test.  But the thing that is most bothersome is how long the process takes.  It took about 8 years from the beginning of the application to get to this point. Now, after all of that, there will be no more checking the mail for letters from Homeland Security.   No more calls to the office of my district representative.  While I will never forget my Mexican heritage, after all of that I am very appreciative of the opportunities and advantages that have been given to me in this country.  And all the applications, interviews, fees, and hassles along the way make the experience of becoming a naturalized citizen a lot more valuable to me.

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