Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Not born in the USA

We all received tiny flags to wave on our special day.

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

- Excerpt from a sonnet called The New Colossus. It was written by Emma Lazarus in 1883 and mounted on a plaque inside the Statue of Liberty. The poem embraces the millions of immigrants who have made the United States their adopted homeland.

* * *

I swore yesterday.

Except this time, everyone approved.

I was taking an oath.

A promise to be a good and loyal citizen to my adopted homeland, the United States. I moved here 12 years ago. Me and three cats in a U-Haul driving across the Canadian border near Vancouver, on my way to Southern California.

But until yesterday, I didn’t feel like I really belonged. Just like felons, I couldn’t even vote, a particularly sore spot for me in last year’s historical election of the first African American president.

Yesterday that all changed.

In Seattle, 111 people including me from 46 countries were claimed by the United States in a ceremony that occurs at the Department of Homeland Security offices about three times a week. It moved me to tears.

Besides receiving our naturalization certificate and congratulations from government officials who were on hand, a couple of short videos were screened. President Barack Obama spoke to us with a personal, heartfelt message.

“This is a historical day, and you’ll never pass this way again. Citizens such as yourself have enriched this country socially, culturally and economically. Use your freedoms and your talents to contribute to the good of the nation and the world.”

I don’t feel like I’ve given up my love for the place that birthed me. But because I’ve made America my homeland, I want to feel like I’ve got rights in this nation, too.

And now I belong to both.

I’ve been accepted by not just one, but two of the greatest countries on planet Earth.

And that’s just dandy—or shall we say, Yankee Doodle Dandy—with me.

I have the privilege of keeping dual citizenship, so now I'm a proud member of both Canada and the U.S.

Nearly one-quarter of the world's countries were represented in this single ceremony.

Here is the oath that all new citizens of the United States must swear to uphold:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

While being in the United States means we have the right to bear arms, that doesn't mean weapons are welcomed at the swearing in ceremony. This location also had an immigration detention center, so anything even vaguely threatening was confiscated. The guards had set up this display case of confiscated items. One guard told me that this many items are confiscated every two weeks.

It was truly a flag-waving moment outside after we had all completed this process. Here I'm posed with Judy Mikel from the Philippines and Daniela Alexakis from Romania. They both live in Vancouver, Washington.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Animal Angel! The creatures of America should be doing backflips now that they have an official advocate on side.

Anonymous said...

Way to go you american citizen. We are so proud of you. A great accomplishment during a troubling year. You are a strong Americanadian. Love you. Dick

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