Gaining citizenship in America

Camille Beaugeard

     Immigration to this country is not easy. There are so many bullets to dodge, so many hoops to jump through, and all the while you must keep your record clean.  One hurdle includes obtaining the paperwork. It’s a common misconception that you can move here, take a test and magically become a citizen. While those may be steps along the way, it’s not that easy. My mother and I have been trying to acquire the allusive paperwork since 2005. While the process does not always take this long, we have had multiple complications along the way. 

     There are many steps to take to become a citizen. Every six months a physical needs to be renewed, which usually includes getting multiple shots and blood must be drawn. This year, the flu shot was added to the long list. One week, I went to the doctor’s office three times to get shots, but at least I got really cool band-aids.

     There is also a huge stack of paper work that needs to be filled out. Between my mom and I there were several hundred forms. My mom would spend entire days signing this, initialing that and describing some facts that they need to know about our lives. Some days, when I would get home from school, my mom would have a stack of things that I needed to fill out. On top of that, the costs of these things add up. Most of the paperwork, medical forms and required shots were not free.

     Then there is the waiting. There is a lot of that – waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles, in waiting rooms, in the interview, but the longest wait is the one at home. The wait for the letter containing the information needed to move on to the next step seemed to take the longest. We finally received letters in the mail saying we were scheduled for an interview  September 10 this past fall.

     On that day, after a two hour drive in the pouring rain, my family finally pulled up to the Immigration and Naturalization Services building in San Antonio.  My mother and I had an interview, just one more step toward becoming an American citizen. I was really nervous, and I’m sure my mom was too, but she didn’t show it. There were so many “what if’s?” flying through my head. What if they deny us? What if they send us back home? What if I say something wrong? What if we are missing something? What if they don’t believe us?

     The INS building is similar to an airport. They search your things thoroughly and have you walk through a metal detector. After passing through security, the guard told us to sit down and wait.

     The twenty minute wait seemed to take hours. I was already feeling nervous when a woman called my mother’s name and led us to the elevator and then to her office. She made us take an oath that basically stated that we were not trying to con the government. She filled in another paper and then another, it seemed to go on and on. She looked at us, smiled and said “OK, we are done.” I was confused on what she meant by that and it was my mom who asked her if she meant we had gotten it. And the woman nodded yes. A huge grin spread across my mother’s and my face.. She congratulated us, then gave us a paper with rules we would need to follow as permanent residents of the US.  

     After five long, complicated, tiring, stressful and worry-inducing years, we had finally achieved something. We can now send out to get Social Security Numbers. These cards will allow us to finally get jobs, and a drivers licenses without restrictions. Although we are now residents we are still not citizens. We can have our residency removed if the government sees fit and we cannot vote. Granted, not everyone has this same experience. Some have had it easier, some have had it harder, but at least I am now able to legally reside in this country.