The Emotion of Becoming an American Citizen

Paul Simkin

These days, if you want to talk about immigration, or naturalization, or American citizenship, people are likely to get angry.

Immigration, long a feverish political issue, discussed in terms of amnesty or no amnesty, has become a flashpoint topic that divides the country politically. Several presidents and legislatures have failed to come together on solutions. Recently, a huge influx of illegal immigrants coming from Central American countries has added fuel to the flames of the debate.

All this bellicosity, anger, and paralysis has obscured something essential about the United States. Everybody still wants to come here, live here, work here, and in astounding numbers, wants to become a citizen. Immigration and naturalization occurs every day and every year, in simple, and quite emotional, occasions all over the country. It’s an ongoing process that appears to be little noticed in all the media and political tumult.

In 2012, by May, some 500,000 people from all parts of the world had become citizens through the process of naturalization. Some 600,000 have done so so far this year. Every year, there are special occasions for large naturalization events, celebrating the long standing virtues of the United States¬—that this is a place where—not always, but most of the time—the door has been open for people from elsewhere in the world. On Aug. 1, 25 children from countries all over the world received citizenship certificates by dint of the fact that their parents had already become citizens. The event was held in the North Garden at Dumbarton House (its director Karen Daly is shown below at a podium) on Q Street with the help of staff from the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services, and was hosted in conjunction with the D.C. region’s Star-Spangled Summer War of 1812 Commemorative programming.

This was not a political event, but rather a celebration of proud children and proud parents who had become citizens of the U.S. They came from El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Pakistan, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Switzerland, Syria, Togo and Vietnam.

Naturalization events, in which immigrants pledge allegiance to the United States, after passing tests on American history and government, civics and English, were held in large numbers all over the country on the Fourth of July. On September 17, which is Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, similar events will be held at military bases, national parks, presidential libraries and historic sites, including Faneuil Hall in Boston; Glacier Point at Yosemite National Park; National Monument in Grand Junction, Colo.; the Harry Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Mo.; the National Archives in Washington, D.C.; the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas; Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, and others.

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Fri, 21 Nov 2014 07:05:52 -0500

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