April 26th, 2016 I became an American citizen.
It was moving, exciting, normal. I just saw something I always felt being true becoming legal.
It wasn’t easy, but not very hard either. I had to fight, but not so much. The system was working, albeit some hiccups occurred.
Now I have a blue passport and a lot more responsibilities: I took a Oath.
When I was born Italian I didn’t have to take any oath. I had just to grew up, trying to understand what was going on around me. When I served in the Italian military I had to take one, though: it was mandatory as mandatory was my enrollment.
Nothing was mandatory on my becoming American. Choice after choice, free will as long as a free will exists.
Now I’m in and I have to make up my mind to the task.
First of all, choosing my next Commander in Chief.
Let’s talk about it.
I am an immigrant, a legal immigrant. Apart from being banned to become a President, I have all the rights of an American born American.
How it happened?
In 2009 I applied for a Green Card. I had to pay my fees (420 dollars as today, plus costs for the visit, trip to Naples…), to collect a lot of documents, to pass a medical and a interview in Naples (the US Consulate there manages all the Southern Europe GC requests I understood). I had to certify I was married to an American (I still am married to her), I had to find a sponsor in the States ready to pay for any possible financial trouble caused by me (one of my great sister-in-law trusted me enough to volunteer), I had to established residence in the US, I had to demonstrate I never did anything against the US Government and that I didn’t intend to bring any harm to the country.
Once finished, the Consulate gave me a big envelope to carry with me on my first trip back to the US.
It was supposed to remained sealed, but they didn’t tell me such a thing, so, being a journalist, I immediately searched it: not a big deal, just copy of all I did until that moment, included my medicals: I was in great shape). Getting the first time to the USA after that trip to Naples, I was reprimanded by the Immigration for the open envelope, but everything went well: within a week I received at home my Green Card and my SS card.
I almost cried when I came back the first time in the USA after that trip and an officer told me, when I showed to him my GC, said “Welcome home”. It never happened anything like that coming back to Italy in more than 40 years of traveling around the world.
Anyway, back to the point of becoming a citizen as a legal immigrant.
Since 2009 I began paying my taxes in the USA and in 2014 I finally reached the requested number days of physical presence on the US soil to apply for naturalization (half of the days in the three years before applying had to be spent home).
So, back to paperwork. I hired a lawyer (unfortunate choice) just to be sure to do everything the right way (1400 dollars), paid my fees (another 680 dollars), went trough fingerprinting and FBI’s checks, had another interview with a Immigration officer who recommended me for naturalization.
After some months I received a letter saying I was denied citizenship. Once recovered from the shock I found out that the Immigration was convinced that in a single month I had been able to be abroad for 79 days. Clerical error, I thought.
No more lawyers, I can write by myself an appeal saying “there is not a month with 79 days”. I did it, paying another 650 dollars.
After some months I had another interview with an officer who didn’t know anything about my case, but at the end was able to tell me that it looked “like we’re wrong but I can’t say you’re right yet: you’ll receive a letter from us”.
After some months I received a letter denying again my citizenship. It was almost Xmas 2015 and my wife was broken like I was after the first denial. I wasn’t, I just counted again and again I found the same kind of mistake, smaller this time, but still enough to substantiate their call. Being impossible to have a second administrative appeal I was ready to go in front of a judge.
I decided instead to call for the rightness of our system. I went to my congresswoman office and I presented my case.
After few months the same official who had denied twice my rights was signing a letter calling me for my Oath.
At the very end, apart time, stress and a lot of other problems regarding housing, job and impossibility to organize my future, becoming a citizen as a legal immigrant costed me more than 3000 dollar from my almost empty pockets.
The most part of this money went to the US government like, since 2009, my taxes money: it wasn’t a lot because I don’t make enough money, but it was all I had to pay and I did it.
So said, back to the point.
This next November I’ll have for the first time the right to vote for my President.
Is it fair to say I can be a little upset by the fact that, while I paid my dues to my country, a lot of people didn’t pay anything to the US government that’s helping them to stay illegally here (well, maybe they had to pay some coyotes to help them get in and I’m sorry for them)? Oh, I forgot: and is it fair that while I paid my taxes, State and Federal, they are just sending money back to their country?
So, just talking about it, to whom do you think I have to give my vote?