A big question is settled

Published 9:53 pm Monday, September 22, 2014

Will I or won’t I? That has been a question on my mind ever since marrying an American and becoming a permanent U.S. resident 3-½ years ago.

Will I or won’t I become a U.S. citizen?

It’s not a question I ever believed I’d one day give much thought to. Even after moving here, I didn’t think much about it for a long time.

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Almost 14 months ago, the birth of our daughter got the gears in my head — maybe even my soul — engaged on the question.

Charlotte is American, and her father is Australian. Circumstances could theoretically arise to make that a problem.

Finally, I decided I don’t want to be the odd one out in my family in terms of nationality.

On Saturday, my wife, our daughter and I sat in a room at a Central Rappahannock Regional Library outside Fredericksburg among a dozen or so others about to begin the process of naturalization.

A woman from a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services district office in Washington walked us through the benefits of citizenship over permanent residency, the requirements, the expectations, the responsibilities and, of course, the application process.

There were some confronting moments, such as hearing an agent of the federal government tell me I’d need to renounce allegiance to — ultimately, given Australia’s political structure — the Queen of England. (Sorry, people back in my native land).

Another one was the prospect of being willing to take up arms on behalf of America against its enemies, “both foreign and domestic,” should the draft be reintroduced.

Voting is another responsibility, though a voluntary responsibility. The presenter recommend new Americans vote not only for the president, but also for the City Council and the School Board.

She also encouraged new citizens to volunteer in their communities, as a way to become more a part of the social fabric. In fact, she even recommended this as a good way for illegal immigrants to become more involved ahead of starting down the path to citizenship.

An hour and a half later, I came away from the information session clutching civics flashcards and pondering the monolithic issue of immigration in American.

From the questions they asked, it was clear my position here is a lot more secure than some of the others in the room.

We hear so much about people smugglers, unaccompanied minors crossing into the country illegally and debate over the nation’s law enforcement response to such things that immigration can easily seem very contentious.

I’m just glad the civics test isn’t going to be as hard I’d dreaded it would be.