A homeschool mom friend of mine today told me that I made her teary-eyed because unlike her, I had chosen to be an American citizen. I wasn’t born into it; I am one by choice. It made me think of the path I took to get to this point.
Way back in 1999 I met my husband online. He was in the U.S. and I was in Jamaica with a young child and going through a divorce. When the divorce was completed, my daughter and I came up, and my honey and I got married.
It took forever to get my status adjusted. We sent our paperwork to the immigration office three times. Each time, as soon as the person checking the documents saw an error, they sent the entire packet back. So basically, the first time we got the paperwork back, we had two more errors that needed to be corrected. Finally, after the third time, we got into the car and drove six hours to the immigration office. We got there early, waited for hours to go inside (yes, the line was like the one in Jamaica at the American Embassy!), and got the documents checked. This time, everything was A-OK. My hubby pulled out his chequebook to pay the fee and then we got the bombshell – they would not accept our documents there; we had to drive back home, and send them back to the very same building we were standing in. Let’s just say we were very unhappy.
Once all that was done and sent in, we had the required interview – the one they do to make sure you’re actually living together – and then several weeks after, I got my permanent resident card. With a restriction. It was good for two years, and then we’d have to go back in, to prove we were still married. I understood the reasoning, and frankly, since we married for love, it was not a big deal. Well, of course, except that dealing with the government on any level is at its best, kind of a big deal, and at its worst, a time-sucking ordeal.
When the restriction was lifted, I got a proper green card – the one that is good for 10 years. And it took me almost 10 years to get naturalized. At first, I didn’t want to give up my Jamaican citizenship. I did not want to give up my identity, my homeland, and everything that being a Jamaican citizen meant. In a place where I was a foreigner, my ancestry, my identity, my everything was important to retain. As I covered town meetings as a reporter, I got frustrated that I could not even let my voice be heard. And yet, I was still not ready.
And then I had a baby. And suddenly, not only did I have a Jamaican-born child (from my previous marriage), but now I had an American-born child. In addition, my older daughter had spent her entire life here and would be going to college here, so now it made sense. It was still agonizing, but it had to be done. And I was finally ready – ready to exercise my rights and responsibilities. On Sept. 17, 2014 (Constitution Day), I became a naturalized American citizen.
So back to Super Tuesday. No matter who gets on the ballot, and what happens in November, I’m still happy and proud to have been able to cast my vote today. It’s the first one since I left my homeland. So yeah, I am a little giddy. 😉