I’m very proud to announce that today I have become a citizen of the United States! About 16 years ago my parents left or sold everything they owned and came to America with the intention of giving my sisters and I a better life. Their journey began like some many other immigrant’s in NYC. With only a few thousand dollars in their pockets and a very basic knowledge of English, my parents immediately embraced the American way of life. When my younger sister and I arrived one month later, they were both proudly waiting for us at the airport, talking and acting as though they had been living in New Jersey all their lives. Many were the places and sights they showed us with an almost endless pride and joy!
Fast forward the story 16 years and you’ll find me sitting at a conference room in Charlotte, NC. It took me two and a half hours to get there from my new residence, and now I found myself sitting next to Elvira G., a 73-year-old Italian immigrant who could barely contain her excitement about what was to come. You see, together with the to of us, there were some other 30+ immigrants, all awaiting for the cerimony of our American naturalization.
Once all the paper work was handled, we were shown a slide show of historical pictures of the first immigrants who arrived in America through New York’s Ellis Island.
A strong wave of emotions took me by surprise as I realized that my parents and I pretty much did the same exact thing. Just like the many immigrants who went through Ellis Island over 100 years ago, they too gave up all they had so my sisters and I could have a better life! They were and will always be the “pioneers” for our family and the many generations yet to come! The slideshow was accompanied by an instrumental version of America, the Beautiful, and as the music faded in the background, Elvira gently sobbed overcome with emotion. I also fought back a couple of tears.
The next 20 minutes were used to give us a brief tutorial on how to obtain a passport, replace a lost/stolen naturalization certificate, and answer any other questions related to immigration. It was only then the the official cerimony took place.
During the cerimony, we renounced allegiance to our original country of birth and swore to “support and defend the constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” We then proceeded to pledge allegiance to the American flag and were then given out naturalization certificate and officially considered American citizens!
This has been a long journey and a major milestone, both for me and my family. As I got ready for the two and a half drive back home, I went over and over the fact that America is no longer only my home… it is now my country!