In the midst of controversy surrounding illegal immigration, porous borders and all that accompanies the subject, the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has one simple goal.
“The goal is to naturalize as many people as want to become U.S. Citizens,” community relations officer Shyconia Burden told the New York Times.
The New York office alone naturalized about 90,000 people, or about 90 percent of the applicants. Office employees are busy distributing information through flash cards and DVDs throughout the community.
As one journalist took the naturalization test herself for a story, she reported:
“…people from Canada, the Dominican Republic, Bosnia, Iran, Afghanistan, Columbia, China, Haiti, Nigeria — whatever assortment the day brought. Having gotten themselves safely to our shores, having beaten the odds and secured a green card, having held that card for at least five years (three for those married to citizens), having filled out Form N-400 and paid $675, they were waiting to undergo an interview.”
Applicants must complete the forms, then sit for a brief interview and oral exam. But if a candidate has a criminal record, a “removal proceeding” is possible. The Times also noted, “If an examiner finds any technical problems with the way an immigrant got his green card, or if his background check turns up any unfavorable encounters with law enforcement, that person may wind up not just rejected, but remanded to a detention center. After a hearing, many are deported. Others fall into a limbo from which it may take years to emerge. Since 2003, 112 people died in these detention centers, often from lack of medical attention.”
Still, the reporter concluded, “The path to American citizenship can be grueling and treacherous, but this day (of the naturalization ceremony) was pure joy.”