Welcome to Our Newest Citizen

US flagNancy, a Craven Literacy tutor, just witnessed her student Te (not her real name) take her Oath of Citizenship in Durham.  Kudos to them both for all their hard work! Below is  Nancy’s moving account of the citizenship process with her student.

On Friday, October 28, I had the pleasure of witnessing Te take her Oath of Citizenship at the US Citizenship and Immigration Service in Durham. For refugees, Burmese in this case, this in an awesome step in their lives. Te has been studying to be a citizen for about 2 ½ years. She attends a weekly citizenship class offered through the Craven Literacy Council . She also takes a second class each week to study the English language. In all that time, she has missed maybe one or two classes, always arriving early with her beautiful smile and eagerness to learn.

Through Interfaith Refugee Ministry, Te arrived in the U.S. in July  2010, with her husband and three children. A fourth child was born here. She works in a part-time job as an office cleaner. Her husband works full-time. In addition to this, she has shown her dedication and desire to attend classes twice a week. The application process for citizenship is multi-fold. There is an 18-page ‘Application for Citizenship’ form to be completed, a challenge in itself. This is sent for review and if accepted, a notice is sent for the applicant to go to Durham for fingerprinting. After a waiting period, the applicant is given a date to go back to Durham. They then take the ‘Interview Test’ on reading, writing, history, government, and understanding verbal questioning. When that is passed, the third and final step is to go back to Durham to take the Oath of Citizenship, as happened on October 28.

There were 57 applicants representing about 40 countries, who had completed all the requirements. The Oath Ceremony consisted of short speeches, the Pledge of Allegiance, a video of American places and faces. There was also a video of the President welcoming and encouraging new citizens to observe their rights and responsibilities as naturalized citizens. The new citizens were asked to stand and be recognized as they received their ‘Certificate of Naturalization’. Following that, there were many pictures, hugs, and yes, some happy tears.

What a privilege it was to be a witness to that solemn and happy occasion. Many thanks are due the Craven Literacy Council and all its supporters. They have the will, the desire, and the excitement to enable the process.

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