“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt
And so today, for the very first time, my friends, I write to you as a Citizen of the United States of America. As of August 21st, 2014, at 12:30 PM, this right here gal took her Oath of Allegiance.
That’s right. I was not a USA citizen for the last 20+ years I have been living in this country. And before you let out a huge gasp, let me just clarify something because every time I mentioned this to anyone, I received one of two responses:
(Blank stare) “Oh, don’t worry, girl. I have a friend in the same position as you are, and s/he works under the table. It’s tough, I know.”
And my favorite:
(Looking like they just saw a ghost) “So you’re illegal?”
Uhhh…sorry guys, you are looking completely ignorant right now, so let me help you out. First of all, I do not believe any human should be considered “illegal”. We are all one species living on one Earth. But there are laws, and I respect that. And secondly, no, I was not illegal. I was a Permanent Resident for those 20+ years, a.k.a. a green card holder. In other words, and in your terms, I was 100% legal, had a social security card, held a legal job, and paid my taxes like any other citizen in this country. The only difference was I was not allowed to vote or hold a USA passport. If I ever traveled outside the country, I spent extra time having customs review my Mexican passport and examine my Permanent Resident card thoroughly before letting me back into the country.
So with all that being said…
I finally decided to take this very important step in my life. For the longest time, I had felt too proud to consider citizenship. I was born in Mexico, and so I felt I would lose my right to call myself Mexican or that somehow I would betray my country and culture. For the first few years of living in the U.S., nothing about it was happy. All my parents did was work from sunrise to sunset. I encountered evil people, and I experienced being belittled because of my lack of English proficiency. “Why did my parents even bring us to this country,” I wondered so many times. For years, I used to think that my only happy childhood moments were those before I came to this country.
But over the years, I learned to be grateful. How different my life would have been in Mexico. I had no intention of moving back. And though Mexico had now become a foreign land to me, I learned that it was my responsibility entirely to keep my culture alive, with or without the physical connection to my motherland. And so, it was time.
As I sat in the ceremony room the day of my ceremony, I was overwhelmed by so many unexpected emotions. I thought about the countless people who died in the pursuit of this flag – too expensive, if not impossible, to do things the right way, but betrayed by their own people in the middle of a desert left to die. I thought about how many families have been broken to pursue a better life only to be greeted by hardships and hatred. I thought about my own family…
And finally, as I stood raising my right hand to repeat the Oath of Allegiance, I heard my voice break as I said out loud that I would renounce my fidelity to the country I had claimed to be my own my entire life – my beautiful, yet broken Mexico. But I gulped my tears away, and I continued:
“…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.”
And that is when pride took over me. You see, the USA wasn’t just allowing me to become a citizen on this day. Instead, I too, was adopting a country as my own, and that is something I was doing with pride.
“…That I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
Amen. I became a citizen with about 21 other people from countries ranging from Australia, Korea, The Philippines, Colombia, Somalia, Ethiopia, Japan, Russia, India, Mexico…I saw smiles, tears, and pride on people’s faces. And my tears finally cracked as I watched an elderly lady from Mexico sobbing as she walked to grab her certificate. Her tears may have been a mix of pride or even relief after hardships leading to this very day, I don’t know…but I think everyone in that room understood the significance of this event.
Despite all the flaws people want to point out, this country has treated me well and has allowed my human self to be just that – a human. I am allowed to pursue happiness as a woman, hold a job, practice any religion I want, or not practice any at all, have a picnic at the park without any daily fear, and even walk down the beach in a two-piece bikini. Yes, I say that because too many people take our freedom far too lightly. Despite all its flaws, I am proud to adopt this country as my own. And I owe no one an explanation. Everyone deserves life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Love and Respect,
Denise, A Proud American Citizen : )
PS: To celebrate, my boyfriend and I went out to do what we love doing on the weekends — exploring! This here is Blanca Lake during sunset. I have a few posts to catch up on — I was busy studying for my citizenship test. Several blog posts are soon to follow! Stay tuned <3