This Thing Called ‘Citizenship’

On Friday, HRH and I had the chance to participate in something most people do not.  We were spectators as Princess took her Oath of Alliegance and became an ‘official’ American citizen. 

She and about 95 other people.

And why did she have to do this?  I have been asking myself the same question.

When we adopted Prince, the need for naturalization was a given.  His adoption agency told us we would have to do it.  And we did.  I wanted to wait until he was a little older – when it would actually mean something to him.  And then a story made its way through the adoption web boards about a teenager whose adoptive parents ‘forgot’ and after a bit of teenage rebellion, he was in danger of being deported.  Deported back to a country he hadn’t seen since he was an infant and to a language that he had never really learned.  It was recommended that adoptive parents do the citizenship process as soon as possible.  So we did.

Prince was almost three and at that time, naturalization of adoptees was done at an INS office about three hours drive from where we lived.  We waited for our appointment, took a couple of days off work, packed up the camper – along with Non and Pop – and made a long weekend of the occasion.  We did everything that an almost three year old loved best in the fall….played in leaves, let him go for endless rides on the little train in the camp ground, cooked hot dogs and marshmallows over a fire and watched boats on the stretch of river connecting two Great Lakes.  It was a wonderful weekend that began with a visit to the INS office where I took his Oath of Alliegance and I signed the necessary paperwork for his citizenship certificate.  He was decked out in a sweater my Mom had made for the occasion and was busy thoroughly charming every person that we encountered….and I have the pictures to prove it.

When we adopted the Princess, I expected to have to repeat the process.  Then the Child Citizenship Act was passed in 2000 and went into effect on February 27, 2001.  This essentially gave American citizenship to any child adopted overseas by American parents as soon as they stepped on American soil and was retroactive back to …..forever.  This meant that Princess was an  official American citizen as of October 12, 2000 when we arrived at JFK in New York on our way home from Moscow.

And who – on the face of God’s green earth could resist this?  Are YOU going to tell her that she isn’t an American?  And no one ever did…until the passport issue arose.

Because the kiddos might be playing tournaments on the Canadian side of our border, and Homeland Security decreed that crossing the bridge or tunnel now required a passport, we investigated filing for them.  Prince was fine.  We had his Citizenship certificate.  And apparently her adoption paperwork would not be enough to apply for a passport.  We needed her Citizenship certificate.  Getting one meant we needed to file an N-600 form and include all of the same paperwork we had collected for his and a check that was significantly higher.  (The N-600 fees are set to increase to $600 at the end of November…and don’t get me started in that issue. International adoptions are already an expensive undertaking but even more money for another piece of paper?)

So we filed in January and waited for her certificate to arrive.  In August we received a letter requesting that we bring her to the INS office in our nearest big city.  We thought we would be receiving her certificate but instead it was an ‘interview’  where – after some questioning and review of her immigration intake paperwork from 2000 –  we were told that the INS official was going to ‘approve her application’ and we would receive notification as to when to bring her back for their Oath of Citizenship ceremony.  Huh?

On the way home from that interview, princess was full of questions about what the big deal was.  What did this all mean?  So I began a quest to find out myself.  I asked friends, family, former teachers and blog friends to spell it out for her.  Things started rolling in and I kept the project quiet.  I put all of their letters, comments, email messages and cards together in a little book for her….aptly titled “What’s the Big Deal?”

I wish that I could include everything here….everything people said to her, that is.  She was reminded of everything from being able to worship God as she pleased in America, the advantages of being female in America, the freedom of speech we have in America, the ‘privilege’ of wearing jeans where ever she wants to in America, the ‘great real estate’ (Grand Canyon, Disney World and the largest statue of Paul Bunyan to name a few) that she can claim ownership of in America, the ‘melting pot’ of immigrant history that we share in America and that we have an incredible legal system that she can take full advantage of should she be planning to commit a ‘heinous crime.’  (LOL…and thanks for that one, LC!)  We read the book’s entrys aloud on the way down to the INS for her Citizenship ceremony last Friday.  We laughed and were struck by the thoughtful care that people took in their sharing.  She was ‘amazed that these people were thinking about her.’   About how much affection was being expressed for her.

I was struck mostly by how many people said that they had a difficult time thinking about what to say to her.  How saying ‘yes’ to the proposition was easier than actually writing.  Everyone acknowledged much they realized that they took our very basic freedoms for granted.  How much writing to her had jogged their own realizations as to how much we have in America.   I have to admit that I did too.  So, thanks for reminding my daughter – and my family – what this ‘citizenship thing’ is all about.

And….ten years and three days from the moment she stepped foot onto American soil, my daughter pledged allegiance to America…and became a United States Citizen.

And yes, Non……..she wore the sweater……

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One Comment on “This Thing Called ‘Citizenship’”

  1. Miranda Says:

    Congratulations to your daughter and to your entire family on her “official” U.S. citizenship! It really is amazing to look at what we have to day and realize just how monumental all of it is.

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