Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Land of the Free and the Brave

Yesterday a (late) judge swore in 3,163 immigrants to become American citizens. It was quiet an event. Apparently I am not making it as big of a deal as it really is. But I guess it kind of is a big deal. Not everyone gets the chance to live and work here. America has a lot of opportunities for people that are willing to put in the work and a lot of people have lived the "American Dream" here, in this super sized country that is a melting pot of a lot of different nationalities. Some of the top 5 nations present yesterday included El Salvador, the Philippines and Mexico (#1). But let me give you the run-down. My letter said to be there at 8am, at LACC. As always, I thought we were going to be late, only to find out that apparently the 3,163 people got very interesting times to appear, like 8.03am. As I walked into the entrance an employee was so nice to point me in the right direction and I crossed the bridge to the right hall. There were a lot of people running around and the entrance section was divided into "guests" and "applicants". The line for me did not look too bad. And then I saw the end of it - a queue through another hall lining into three individual lines. Oh well, I made it through the security check and went to stand in another line. The officer at the table asked for my invitation letter and my Green Card. I handed it over and they asked a couple of questions to make sure nothing had changed since the interview. They wrote the number "36" on the letter and handed it back to me with my GC stapled and made invalid. Then I followed the crowd behind the stage, saw a bathroom and took my chance. I was not sure how long the ceremony would take. Afterward I entered the ceremony area where I was handed a packet from the USCIS which included the voter's registration, application for passport, some instructions and a letter from the President welcoming me as a new citizen. The ceremony was supposed to start at 9am and from where I was sitting I could see that the judge arrived a little after 9am and then had to be briefed. At first a lady took the podium, welcoming everyone and thanking everyone to be there. Then they honored a couple of military guys that have fought for the United States. Afterward the judge made the immigrants rise and we pledged the Allegiance. The Star-Spangled Banner was performed by a gentleman whose microphone was not working and a lady from the USCIS pretty much concluded the ceremony with two videos. The first one was Barack Obama welcoming everyone as a loyal citizen and the second one was an old video of a country singer performing a song, "Proud to be an American" I believe, or so. After that they dismissed the guests that were sitting in the back and dismissed us row by row to go to the table number that had been written on our letters as we checked in. I was sitting in the last section to be dismissed. As I got up front in the area where everyone was lined up there were some women arguing. Apparently two women had stood in the wrong line and had tried to cut the line they were supposed to be in, which the other new citizens were not having. An officer told the lady that she needed to go to the end of the line and wait and she was trying to argue. End of story, the officer told the other officer that handed out the naturalization certificates to not hand hers out to her because she could not behave. After I got my document I went outside to meet the man and one of my girlfriends who had made the drive downtown to witness my becoming an American. We drove back to the Marina and had a fantastic lunch with some of my girlfriends. We missed the ones that were stuck at work and could not make it but we will be sure to toast to this event on our trainer's night out and then later on during ladies night in May. I could not get my passport application submitted yesterday so I was lucky enough to get an appointment next week. I called about a dozen locations which all did not have any openings till mid-May till I got to the one in Inglewood and their earliest opening is next week. Overall I gotta admit it was a very well organized event, considering how many people were present. It has taken over five years for this process to climax to my becoming a U.S. citizen, and it all started based on taking a leap of faith and challenging fate as well as my luck. Here are some pictures....

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