Monday, May 01, 2006

Out of Uniform

The Congress shall have Power...To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization
~ United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 8

Well, Congress, to where has it disappeared? That "uniform Rule of Naturalization," specified in the Constitution, which you faithfully swore to uphold and defend in your oaths of office?

My husband was a naturalized citizen of the United States. As a teenager, Pete studied for his citizenship exam. It was a formal process, he told me, a very big deal to a youngster. He had to learn about the U.S.A.--the branches of U.S. government, their functions, some of our laws and history. He then had to pass a citizenship exam, which he did as soon as he came of age. Pete was 18 years old when he became a U.S. citizen. He told me that he took his exam in a roomful of foreign-born nationals of every age and race. After he and the other applicants who had achieved passing grades received their miniature American flags, they together pledged allegiance to the United States. It was quite a ceremony, Pete said. A very big deal.

Pete's citizenship certificate is a document that he had to keep handy throughout his life. He needed to produce it to get married, to obtain his license to teach school, to receive benefits when he was disabled.

Pete's high school photo is affixed to the left side, about halfway down, imprinted with the seal of the United States District Court that naturalized him. The top of the document contains a physical description of him, the blanks filled in with archaic typewritten text--hair and eye color, height, weight, marital status, and "Country of former nationality," typed in as Latvia. His signature appears on a line beneath, a spindly and tentative rendition of his bold adult scrawl.

Next to his photo, there is a long, formal paragraph of legal script that gives the date of his naturalization and his home address and reads, in part, that Pete:

...intends to reside permanently in the United States when so required by the Naturalization Laws of the United States, had in all other respects complied with the applicable provisions of such naturalization laws, and was entitled to be admitted to citizenship, thereupon...he was admitted as a citizen of the United States of America.

At the bottom, it is dated and signed by the U.S. District Court Clerk.

Quite serious, formal, official, and meaningful, don't you agree? Perhaps that is why Pete so appreciated his citizenship in this country. He understood that it was indeed a very big deal to be part of America. I wonder what he would think of today's illegal immigrant marchers, crashing the border, clogging the streets, waving their flags, and demanding their "rights"--in Spanish.

I think he might have a very short sentence for them--and for Congress, too. It would probably contain three words. And it certainly wouldn't be "si se puede."