“I pledge allegiance…”

By Helen Hammer

Photo credit: Gerald Herbert

My great-aunt lives in two worlds. In one, she must be a statutory resident of the United States for five years. This entails separation from her husband and two daughters for periods between six months and one year. In the second, she remains an Iranian citizen by birth. The estrangement from her family is the price she must pay to obtain U.S. citizenship through naturalization. This piece is dedicated to her and each individual striving to prove fidelity to this country.

To be a citizen of the U.S. is a privilege and responsibility. Therefore, to be conscious of this liberty, it is vital to understand the process undertaken to obtain this right. In truth, citizenship is a human right. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), article fifteen, states: “Everyone has the right to a nationality. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality;” it is a choice each individual should be granted by all states.

Simplified, the laws of naturalization in the U.S. are as follows:

One must either be born on U.S. soil or meet all eligibility requirements. For those University of Washington scholars who are aware of the latter, congratulations is most deserved. The Immigration and Nationality Act, created in 1952, requires the individual to:

  • Be eighteen or older
  • Acquire permanent residence for at least five years prior to citizenship application
  • Show continuous residence for five year prior to the application
  • Reside in the U.S. thirty months prior to application
  • Reside, three months prior to application, in the state or district with jurisdiction “over the applicants place of residence”
  • Reside in the U.S. from time of application to the time of naturalization
  • Be able to read, write and speak English. As well as acquiring an understanding of U.S. history and government
  • Be of “good moral character”

Granted, there are exceptions to these conditions relating to age, status of permanent residence, or marital status. This information is easily obtainable on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services webpage. However, it was often condemningly brought to students’ attention in high school that those who sought U.S. Citizenship knew more concerning the history and government of this country, compared to the population born here. While this statement may have an air of reason to it, it should be the pursuit of every individual to be knowledgeable regarding their government and its activity.

Photo credit: Sandy Huffaker

In addition to the legal requirements immigration entails, there are also monetary barriers.  As of June 2010, the Obama administration planned an increase of approximately ten percent for immigration documents. For instance, the application for a green card would increase to $985, and the process of fingerprints and “other biometric data” would increase to $85. The application fee for citizenship, however, will remain at the low-low price of $595. Take into account that this is the procedure for legal immigration and citizenship. Policy to decrease the presence of illegal immigrants in the country is also a point of contention.

In a speech on immigration reform this past July, President Obama explained, “The majority of Americans are skeptical of a blanket amnesty and they are also sceptical that it is possible to round up and deport 11 million people.” To simply deport those who reside in the U.S. illegally would “tear at the very fabric of this nation.” The following August, the President signed a bill into law for $600 million dollars toward border control between the U.S. and Mexico, as well as an effort to decrease “gangs and criminal organisations” on both sides of the border, allegedly this law was a precursor to further immigration legislation.

To simply execute punishment against illegal immigrants without critical examination of this country’s immigration process and services would be fruitless. Furthermore, citizenship of one’s country should not be taken for granted. The capability to protest policies hindering to the respect of human dignity is a privilege the people of this country possess. I challenge you to utilize this freedom.

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