Becoming a US Citizen
There is a Miami Herald article below. Today and tomorrow over 12,000 people will be sworn in as US citizens. One of them tomorrow will be my sister-in-law Leonette. She came to the US from the Philippines almost 6 years ago to work as a nurse. Congratulations Leonette and to all the others who be taking the oath the next two days.
Open Post- Is it just me?, Bloggin Outloud, Third World County, Right Wing Nation, Outside the Beltway,
Marie Henri cannot speak much English, but her attachment to the United States is evident.
She smiles broadly and puts her hands on her chest when she explains why she wants to be an American.
''I'd get very sad before when my children, who are U.S. citizens, voted on Election Day and I couldn't,'' said Henri, 71, a native of Haiti who arrived in the United States in 1999. ``Those were very sad days.''
Henri is among the more than 12,000 women and men who will realize their American dream when they take the oath of allegiance in four mass naturalization ceremonies at the Miami Beach Convention Center today and Wednesday. Henri is scheduled to recite the oath at 9 a.m. today.
It's the largest number of new citizens to take the citizenship oath in South Florida in recent years. The largest single local citizenship ceremony took place July 4, 1986, when 14,200 immigrants attended a giant ceremony at the Orange Bowl.
Nationwide, about 450,000 people become U.S. citizens each year -- including 10,000 military service members naturalized through an expedited process that began after 9-11 and the war on terror.
This week's ceremonies come as Congress begins debate on immigration reform and as immigration service officials step up the overhaul of the citizenship test to make it more ``meaningful.''
Alfonso Aguilar, head of the Office of Citizenship at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, notes that the new test's goal will be to measure a prospective citizen's ''commitment'' to the values of the United States -- not just a person's ability to memorize who the president is or who are the state's senators -- questions Henri answered.
''We want citizens to develop an attachment to the constitution,'' Aguilar said last week. ``We want to encourage civic patriotism.''
By Aguilar's definition, Henri would pass with flying colors. Every time she was asked how she felt about becoming a citizen, Henri expressed pride and joy, stating in Creole and English that she was elated.
''I'm very, very happy -- very, very proud,'' she said. ``I love America.''
Henri spent part of her day Friday at Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami or Haitian Women of Miami Inc., where Executive Director Marleine Bastien runs citizenship classes.
Henri is one of more than 20 citizenship class graduates who took the course at Bastien's office and succeeded in attaining citizenship.
Evelt Jeudy, Bastien's citizenship coordinator, said he drills students repeatedly on basic questions that citizenship examiners are likely to ask.
''I make them write over and over about 96 questions that could come up,'' Jeudy said.
Memorization is one of the practices that officials involved in redesigning the test would like to change.
Aguilar told The Wall Street Journal recently that the new test shouldn't measure memorization, but, rather, ``encourage civic learning and patriotism.''
Aguilar said the redesigned test likely will be ready in 2007 but may take another year to implement.
Redesign started years ago. It was given a big push by the former head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Eduardo Aguirre -- an immigrant who fled Cuba to the United States when he was 15, and then became a naturalized American.
''With the memorization process, typically what happens to folks is a few weeks later, you forget,'' Aguirre told The Herald in 2004. 'I want them to know more than just the three colors of the flag. I want them to know, `What does the flag mean?' ''
Henri said the examiner asked her who was the president of the United States and who are Florida's two senators. She said she answered both correctly: George W. Bush; Mel Martinez and Bill Nelson.
Michal Medina, an Israeli who will swear allegiance Wednesday, said she was asked to name Florida's governor and who would become president if the president were to die. (Jeb Bush and the vice president.)
Medina, 31, was assisted in her naturalization process by Miami immigration attorney Michael Bander, who agrees that the citizenship test must be improved.
''Hopefully, the government can come up with an exam that shows a commitment toward the basic philosophy of our form of government,'' he said.
Medina, assistant director at a Hebrew day school and a Pembroke Pines resident, said she's looking forward to becoming a citizen not only because she wants to be an American, but because she wants to ``feel like a first-class citizen.''
One incident on arrival from abroad after her daughter Eden was born in Israel 5 ½ years ago brought the point home to her.
She said a particularly ''nasty'' officer pulled her and her family from the regular airport immigration line and held them for hours, initially refusing to admit her infant daughter as an immigrant. Eventually, the officer relented, Medina said.
By contrast, she said, the citizenship examiner was charming and polite.