This is the story of one fine cold day a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
I woke up early and left home at 7:30am as I had to drive through rush hour traffic. It took me an hour to get to 2150 Parklake Dr. I went in, got through the metal detector and bag screening and took the elevator to the 2nd floor. The first thing I did there was to look for the restrooms. Then I waited.
My appointment was at 9:05am, but the interviewer came to get me at 9:35. I went to her office where I had to take an oath to tell the truth. She asked me for my driver’s license, passport and green card. Then she went over my application, asking about any changes. She also asked me if I had ever been a member of the Communist party or a terrorist organization, if I had ever been arrested, convicted, committed a crime or lied to the government. Then it was time for the test. She got the computer to print out 10 random questions about US civics, history and government. Those were real easy, but even easier were the one simple sentence she asked me to write and another that she asked me to read. She gave me a form telling me that I had passed the tests of English and US history and government and that my application has been recommended for approval. Then she asked if I wanted to be part of the oath ceremony the same day. Of course, I did. And so I was done in about 15 minutes.
I then sat in the waiting room for the oath letter for 45 minutes. When I got the letter, I realized I had time to kill as it was only 10:45 and the oath was at 2pm. I called Amber and we decided to go for lunch at Tamarind Seed Thai Bistro in Midtown. I had Spicy Lamb with Basil, which was spicy but was also very very tasty.
After lunch, I got back to the USCIS office and went to the room where the oath ceremony takes place. First, we had to check our naturalization certificates for any mistakes. Then we were all seated. Every seat had a packet which contained:
- A US flag
- A page with the oath of allegiance and the pledge of allegiance to the flag
- A list of things new citizens need to do
- A letter of congratulations from the President
- A pocket booklet including the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution and its amendments
- The Citizen’s Almanac
When all the prospective citizens were seated, their relatives who had come to witness the ceremony were called in.
The Field Office Director then talked a bit and told us that there were 110 people becoming citizens and they came from 44 countries. Then she called everyone to stand going by their country of origin. I couldn’t note down the list of countries represented there, but there were Afghanistan, Guyana, Iran, Ireland, Pakistan, Mexico, India, South Africa, Kampuchea, Ireland, Yugoslavia and others. Then all of us held up our right hands and repeated after the Director the oath of allegiance.
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.
While we were taking the oath, the relatives who had come along were taking pictures.
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all.
Finally we saw a video welcome by President George W. Bush. On our way out, we took our naturalization certificates. The employees at the front desk and the security personnel congratulated us as we were leaving the building. I have never seen anyone at INS or USCIS act so courteous before.
Let’s get back to the title of this article: Free At Last! No, that doesn’t refer to the freedoms guaranteed by the US constitution. Instead, it celebrates my freedom from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). I have never seen a worse bureaucracy.