Wow, I’ve been a citizen for just over 2 months. Since my home country was Canada, it didn’t seem weird to have a national Holiday in the first few days of July. As Canada celebrates their independence as a country on July 1. So on July 1, I proudly wore a Roots Canada t-shirt that said “Roots Canada since 1973” on so many levels thats awesome. My roots have and will always be in Canada the place of my birth, which also happens to be 1973. Today, July 4, I wore a t-shirt (church member gave me in honor of my citizenship) that had red,white and blue fireworks on it.
I thought it appropriate for me to share a bit about my journey into the United States and my journey to citizenship, on this Independence Day. I entered into the US in August 1995. I had recently graduated from The University of Lethbridge with a BA – major in music, minor in Education.
My journey into the United States brought with it an independence of sorts for me personally and allowed me time for healing and growth. I arrived in Bethlehem, PA to attend Moravian Theological Seminary. I knew no one and all I had with me was what fit into the back of my parents van (they accompanied me but left a couple days after, leaving me alone and without transportation). On top of some injuries I was dealing with from a recent car accident (before I left Canada) I knew NO ONE and was left to find my way. Find my way around Bethlehem, a new school, and a new medical system. Good thing I felt called to ministry and I could rely on the my faith and my God to help me get through those lonely first days. Even in the midst of such change – I sensed a peace I’d never felt before.
Seminary proved to be an amazing time — meet some of my best friends and of course the first person I met on the first day of class became my husband between our middler and senior years.
So up until graduation I was in the United States on a Student Visa. During my senior year, following my husband and I accepting a call in south Jersey, we began working on a “green card” or permanent residence card. The Moravian Church at that time had an attorney who handled all the work for us. All we had to do was attend a hearing of sorts. The Immigration Officer was very pleasant and my residence card was granted and eventually renewed.
As we moved from call to call, it was my responsibility to notify the INS within a short period of time. I admit, I was late on doing it a few time but it’s hard to remember something that is out of sight. Then along came 2013 — and I knew that i had an important decision to make – did I renew my green card or did I apply for citizenship. The cost of renewing my green card was $450 and for citizenship it would be $680.
I decided that it would be better stewardship for the church, if I would become a citizen. They then would just have to pay one more time and have it be a done deal. Not to mention I wouldn’t have to worry about of keep up with changing my address for the IRS and carrying such an important document with me at all times. I also knew that it would be highly unlikely for me to move back to Canada. That independence that I got on a personal level had allowed me to grow in many ways and returning home would be difficult. I also felt that if I where to encourage church members to vote, I needed to practice what I preached. (IMPORTANT NOTE: I NEVER TOLD THEM WHO OR HOW TO VOTE BUT SIMPLY TO VOTE)!
So in early 2013, I began what I thought would be a long process — the good news is it went rather fast. There were lots of papers to filled out and documents to be found. The instructions on the Homeland Security site were at times a bit confusing so the church hired an attorney for me to have email conversations with. Thankfully, she sent me a list of what forms needed to be filled out and what needed to be sent. And I was mighty thankful that my littleman’s birth certificate was sealed over and we were listed as his parents because there would have been plenty more forms to fill out in addition to sending a certified copy of the adoption decree.
In early March a letter came from the Immigration service requesting me to be present at the Charlotte processing center to have my biometrics done. It also stated that if I were late they would consider my application abandoned. Charlotte is only about an hour and forty-five minutes from me but I decided I would get a hotel in order to ensure I would be there on time. Well all that happened but the sad part is the taking of my biometrics took less than 10 minutes. But their quickness allowed a little side trip to Ikea 🙂
It was about 2 or 3 weeks and another letter from Homeland Security came asking me to be present at the Homeland Security office on April 18 for my interview and citizenship test. That didn’t leave me much time to study for the test — oh I hate tests. So again, we headed down the night before to ensure we were there on time. This time they told me it would be about 2 hours and no electronic devices were allowed into even the waiting room (which annoyed my husband as he couldn’t read on his kindle). I studied the book that they gave out and was so annoyed because I kept getting dates mixed up. There were 100 questions, the interviewing officer would ask 10 and you had to at least get 6 right (yes it was an oral exam, which made it harder in my opinion). I couldn’t tell you what questions my immigration officer asked that day because I was really stressed out. He kept telling me to relax, I was from Canada, knew the language and everything was going to be fine. Which it was, I was with him answering questions and signing paper for about 15 minutes. They I was told to wait back in the waiting room and a senior officer would come out and talk to me. I was back in the waiting with my husband all of 5 minutes and she came and told me that I was approved for citizenship and I should report back there in one week to participate in the swearing in ceremony.
Then along came April 25, 2013 – the day I took the oath and became a citizen. My Mother-in-law, father-in-law, my little man, our un-official adopted daughter, and my husband were present for the special moment. There were 80 of us there to take the oath from what I’d say about 50 countries (they do a naming of countries present and ask folks to stand, at the beginning of the ceremony)/ I don’t know all the countries but remember them calling, The Congo, Iran, Great Britain, Jamaica, Mexico, and of course Canada.
In addition to the calling of countries, the ceremony consisted of the singing of the nation anthem, a slideshow set to “I”m proud to Be An American” with pictures from all the major glories of the nation, the administration of the oath, the Pledge of Allegiance, a video message from President Obama, and a couple of closing remarks.
The oath has some strong words and implications, I’m going to share it with you all in just a few minutes. I wonder how many Americans are familiar with it and would be willing to take it themselves. While saying the oath there were two officers on stage and the one actually administering the oath got distracted and began to say the wrong words. She then stopped and the two officers had a conversation that led to one of them leaving the stage and going and having a conversation with on of the applicants. Later when they handed out certificates of citizenship they did not give that one out. I don’t know what happened but it reminded me of how serious and critical the oath is to one becoming a citizen. The Oath can be found here.
I’ve had mixed emotions about becoming a citizen and I don’t think I’ve figured them all out. But it was a joyous day to have my family of choice there with me and after having lived in the United States for close to 18 years it was a step I needed to take. I admire all those who take the journey of becoming a citizen and I encourage those who are citizens to help and encourage those who are not. And if you are ever asked to attend someone’s citizenship ceremony do it — words can’t describe it’s awesomeness.
As we celebrate America’s independence, I too celebrate my independence! I’m grateful that God called me into ministry and has continued to work with me, molding me and forming me!