About eight years ago, my son began the lengthy and complicated legal process involved in allowing his fiance to immigrate to America from her native Thailand. He hired an attorney who specialized in immigration law, particularly in obtaining the K-1 visa that she would require to enter the country. I was totally amazed at the number of hoops they had to jump through, the paperwork, the waiting periods, the status levels. Even though they were legally married within the prerequisite 90 days of her entry into the United States, over the last several years they have been required to make numerous visits to the immigration office in Miami, offering photographs and affidavits that proved they remained married and had a "true loving relationship." There was a period of about two years after their marriage when she was not allowed to leave the country~a period during which she missed significant events in her family back in Thailand, events like her sister's wedding and her grandmother's funeral. But all of that ended today. This afternoon, my son and daughter in law made one final trip to Miami where she became an American citizen.
As a third generation American, I guess I've always taken my citizenship a little bit for granted. I do my share of whining about the way things are here (especially lately!), but I'm happy to enjoy the benfits of living in a country where so many good things are readily avaiblable. The tragedy of 9/11 struck me to my core, and I was as fiercly defensive of my country at that time as a mother is of her child. Over the years, I've played around with the idea of moving to another country (like England), but even if I did, I doubt whether I would relinquish my American citizenship. So I'm touched that my daughter in law wanted to do this, that she chose to pledge her allegiance to this country.
American entices people from all over the world with it's largesse, it's abundance, it's variety and choice. Sort of like belonging to the popular crowd in school, it's something people desire to be a part of. And I believe in the ideal of the melting pot, that American should be a place where people from other countries can seek new opportunities, religious freedom, or refuge from oppression. If we look back far enough in our geneolgy, everyone in this nation has an ancestor that chose this country as his new home, that came here looking for something new, different, better. My Armenian grandfather owed his life to the United States~ he was so proud of his citizenship that he considered July 4 his birthday, and we always celebrated it as such.
But today, I'm most proud of my daughter-in-law, for all the work and effort she's made to get to this point (and for scoring 100% on the new, more difficult citizenship test!!) She is a lovely, intelligent, caring, and hard working young woman, who is a great asset to our family, and will be a great asset to our nation.