If you follow me on social media, then what I’m about to share may not surprise you. For everyone else, I suppose I have the luxury of building up some degree of suspense.
In August, I wrote about my long deliberation regarding whether or not I should file for my U.S. citizenship. I discussed my qualms and the reasons for my hesitation. One big reason was a feeling of pursuing citizenship out of fear instead of an actual desire to be American.
Many immigrants struggle with this as they progress through the immigration process. If they hated the countries and the lives they left behind, then assimilation is easy and deserting their original home countries requires no second thought.
That’s not the position I was in. I love Jamaica with all its flaws and idiosyncrasies and I will always miss the island life. This made my decision a lot more difficult.
To add to this, immigration policies and general political sentiment were not in my favour. I lost a lot of sleep worrying about my immigration paperwork as I encountered delay after delay. I wondered how much more money I would have to pay and how much more waiting would be involved before I put this in-limbo phase behind me.
I have a car, a home, a business, a pet, and my family here. If my paperwork was rejected for some reason, where would that leave me? This question so plagued me all the way back in 2018 that it became my goal to make my business 100% location independent. That way, if Uncle Sam did kick me out, my income came with me. I achieved that by the start of 2019.
Still, I fretted. The more I fretted was the more I accepted that finances and familial relationships were not my only reasons. I genuinely enjoy living in America. I am no fan of people in the Southeast, but the country itself is beautiful and its complex inner workings are fascinating.
I love the sheer size of it. Most of all, I look forward to the opportunities to escape into the desert out West and up to the fiery New England fall in the North — the two regions where you’re most likely to run into the nicer and more welcoming Americans.
By the time I applied, I was decided. America was home now and it was time to plant those roots and move forward. The process that followed was not easy. After returning from my California desert trip, Uncle Sam informed me that I had my civics test coming up. This was the first update I had received on my paperwork since 2018 when I applied to renew my residency.
My green card has been expired since September 2018, forcing me to use a flimsy piece of paper from USCIS stating that I am here legally on an extension. I don’t need to tell you how often this gets closely scrutinized and the hassle it creates when I travel.
Then, December came and I went in bright and early to do my civics test. After waiting for three hours, the floor supervisor sent me home with new requirements that were not listed on the letter I received. I had only two days to get everything together.
I had moved all my work to the end of the week to get that day free, and now I had that work to do while preparing all over again for a test and their new requirements. That sleeplessness grew worse. My family did their best to reassure me that it would all work out, but not only was I frustrated: I was furious.
When I went back the second time, I felt deflated. I had stayed up all night working and barely finished in time. Then, I drove through hail and Atlanta morning traffic to make it to the rescheduled appointment.
Still, I passed the test with flying colours and went home. Everyone was excited, but not me. I couldn’t shake that nagging feeling that they would ask me to do something else, present something else, or tell me they had changed their minds again.
“You’re a citizen, now!” Mom declared.
I scoffed and went to bed.
A week later, I received a letter telling me to come in for my swearing-in ceremony. I put the letter under the tree as my Christmas present from Uncle Sam and went back to work.
“Aren’t you excited?” one of my friends asked me.
“After what happened the last time; no. I’ll believe they’re serious this time when I’m actually sworn in.”
Well, on January 10th of 2020, I officially became a United States citizen with all its rights and responsibilities.
I would love to tell you that I’m finally excited, but it still hasn’t quite sunken in yet. It came 10 days after my biggest client effectively banned me from moving to California. The email came in on New Year’s Eve, killing a plan that had been 12 months in the making, on the brink of its implementation.
Until this is sorted, and I figure out what my next move is, I find that I think of little else. Now, I have sleepless nights for a whole new reason. I’m not anxious, per se, but I find that I must balance making money with making new plans. How does one recreate a plan that is 12 months old in 14 days, at the time when the ball was supposed to start rolling?
That’s the current dilemma I’m faced with. As I said before, my 2020 is off to a challenging start. On the bright side, my greatest worry is now behind me. Uncle Sam is officially my adoptive Daddy and he’ll have a hard time trying to get rid of me now!
One of the things that I find most interesting about USCIS field offices is how different the culture is, compared to the federal and political side of USCIS. The motto displayed at the Atlanta office is not, “In God We Trust.”
Instead, it’s the original American motto, and, the one of the two that I personally espouse. It says:
Out of Many, One.
This was further addressed at the ceremony, where the host shared his own experience as the third-generation immigrant of a German who fled persecution in Russia. He reminded us all that while America was our new home and we owed her our allegiance, we should never forget where we came from. We should make it our duty to spread our original cultures within the American population, because we are stronger together, not apart.
These are truly the words of a fellow immigrant or immigrant descendant. I don’t think most Americans hold this view. But, I hope that in time, more people begin to understand what it’s like to straddle the line between homeland and home country. Put simply, I paid for this American flag with $5,000 in cash and five years of blood, sweat, and tears — but there is still a country that once gave me hers for free.