Roselle with Sen. Carla Nelson-R, with me the author, on Rose’s swearing in day.
by Jeremy Griffith
The American Millennium Online
With hope for a better future, with aspirations and dreams, 848 new naturalized American Citizens were sworn in at a public ceremony at the Minneapolis Convention Center Sept. 24th.
The hall at the Minneapolis Convention Center was packed with people taking their oath of citizenship. 848 new citizens naturalized that day. -photo by Jeremy Griffith
I was a part of this journey since my girlfriend, the love of my life, embarked on it earlier this year. We decided together she’d been here long enough, now was the time to pursue becoming a citizen. We paid the money, $680 for the interview, biometric and other fees, with the help of family and friends. We borrowed a book to study for the test. We read all of the rules and did all the confusing paperwork. We called in to work in order to make the trips to Minneapolis and St. Paul for her appointments, we never missed one, and we were grateful for the people who helped us out and picked up or shifts.
We studied hard and in all, my baby’s interview took 9 minutes, 44 seconds, just enough to answer six questions of the battery of the 100 we studied, time enough to drop all her paper work on the floor and raise the wrong hand. Nervous as we were, she knew all the questions by heart and answered them succinctly enough to impress the interviewer. We did it, we were on our way to becoming a citizen. I was so proud of her.
Roselle with Sen. Amy Klobuchar-D, left and State Sen. Carla Nelson-R, right. It doesn’t matter the party, politicians love new voters. -photo by Jeremy Griffith
My girl, Roselle Salvador Taburada, the Asian lady with the Spanish name, came here to America over seven years ago from the Philippines. She spoke English and had a degree in business management. He got her Green Card and got a job as soon as she was able. It wasn’t always easy. Her husband was a dud and her marriage failed. In her anger and despair she contemplated leaving and going back to the Philippines. But she stuck with it and got a better job, in food service. She was active with friends and with the community, earning a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and competing in tournaments. We’ve got her trophies on our bookcase in our home. She’s been active in the Philippine-American community. Her life was turning around and it seemed time to strive for the ultimate goal, citizenship.
On that happy day we were so excited. She wore a new pink dress that she picked out for the occasion. We left home early so as not to get lost in traffic and be late. It was cold and rainy and there was fog on the road. I just love driving in traffic on days like that. We found our spot and stood in line. There was a spot marked out for the new citizens there in the hall of the convention center. We got there early and had to wait. There were so many people there that we filled the hall. It was standing room only when we finally got in. About half an hour late, thanks to government inefficiencies, the doors of the hall opened and we started to get sorted. I couldn’t sit with my Rose, we were put in separate lines and ended up on opposite sides of the hall. I brought the wrong camera for the occasion, I thought I would be closer to the stage, and got photos I’m not real happy with. But we made it through and it was a nice ceremony.
The League of Women voters used up the waiting time before the ceremony and offered to register all the new voters. I commented about this to the two Mexican women sitting next to me, saying, “Look, it’s so nice of the League of Women voters to register new Democrats, uh, I mean ‘voters’!” They laughed politely. Both of the ladies, fast friends who had never met before that day, were amazing and fun to talk with. The younger one was from Peru and was there for a friend. She fiddled with her new Android Galaxy smart phone that looked more like a television. (I bet she got better photos than me.) The other woman had come from Mexico and had been here for over 20 years. I enjoyed listening to them speaking Spanish together, the syllables sound like music to me, unlike the German and Arabic I studied. It was fun talking and listening to their stories of their separate journeys to become citizens and their hopes for their relatives and friends who were being sworn in that day.
It’s gotta be official. US District Court Judge for the State of Minnesota calls the court to order and swears in the new naturalized citizens. -photo by Jeremy Griffith
The League finished passing out pens and papers to the attendants and the ceremony got underway. The US District Court for the state of Minnesota was the host of the event and opened the ceremony as t hey would any other official court function. An assistant to a US district court judge opened the court session. She took the time to announce the numbers of people present from the different countries and had each stand in turn when they were announced. That’s when we learned the nationalities and the numbers of each applicant present. I remember a few; two from Iran, two from Iraq, 20 from the Philippines, one each from Canada, Israel, Australia and the UK. Many from war torn, disease-ridden Africa, including the largest number from the non-country of East Africa, Somalia: 98! Wow!
When the district court judge’s assistant completed the task of announcing all the applicants, she made a motion to open the court and recommended that the gathered applicants be sworn in as citizens, having been vetted as people of high moral character who have completed all of the requirements of citizenship. The judge took over and presided over the court, approving the recommendation of citizenship for all in attendance. There was a music video played with the patriotic Lee Greenwood song played. The judge had all the attendees stand and raise their right hand as the oath was administered. The oath, very similar to the oath I took as a newly commissioned lieutenant in the United States Army, was displayed on a large view screen at the front of the hall. The applicants spoke in unison, swearing allegiance to the United States, abandoning all allegiance to their country of origin and swearing to protect their newly adopted nation with force of arms if need be. It was a very moving ceremony. I cried.
A happy new citizen gets her photo taken with my parents, Kathy and Len. -photo by Jeremy Griffith
I made the hail-Mary move of inviting our local state senator to join us for the ceremony and to the pleasure and surprise of both of us, she was happy to come. Carla Nelson-R from Rochester, found my parents in the large hall and sat with them for the ceremony. The judge recognized her as well as our Federal Senator, Amy Klobuchar, who sat up front with the judge and his assistant. We were happy to meet both of our representatives, state and federal on that important day.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Klobuchar made a few remarks. She talked about citizenship, and about her own path through life. She explained that her grandfather had been a coal miner in northern Minnesota, had taken care of his family and worked hard in the mine all his life, putting the children through school. Now a generation later, his grand-daughter was a United States Senator. It is that kind of determination and hard work that makes a US citizen and affords the citizen success later on, success they might not otherwise find in their country of origin.
I have no major qualms about what our Senator said up until that point. I was actually quite impressed with the history of or democratic senator, a story I had not heard before. Then she told the crowd in what sounded like a campaign speech, that she was for comprehensive immigration reform, to which the majority of the crowd loudly applauded. Except for me and the Peruvian and Mexican sitting next to me.
Comprehensive immigration reform, Senator?! What does that mean? We have a legal process that allows many, many people to enter the country legally every year, many who take the step to become legal citizens. On that day, 98 Africans who had escaped the black hole of that continent, Somalia, were sworn in and naturalized. What more do you want? Should we swing the doors open to everyone who wants to come? Should we invite even those people who don’t embrace our values? I think we ought to keep and embrace our current system or more clearly define how you propose to change it. I didn’t hear the Senator do that.
At the end of the ceremony, my parents and Sen. Nelson found us. I still hadn’t seen Rose, who was still up front getting her certificate of citizenship. I told the Senator, doubtful, “I don’t think we can get up there.” She said, “Don’t worry, let me take care of that.” She lead me through the crowd to the front where we found Rose. We then pushed to the head of the line to meet Sen. Klobuchar. Nelson introduced herself to the senator’s staffer, who waived us ahead. Because of Nelson’s clout, we got our photo taken with our Federal senator, a moment in time we will never forget. The Federal judge we missed, he had already escaped out the back.
Sen. Carla Nelson made the effort to make our day special. She used her clout and introduced us to our federal rep, Sen. Amy Klobuchar. -photo by Jeremy Griffith
Since the ceremony, we’ve gotten a lot of recognition for Rose on her achievement. We’ve registered to vote and we are studying the candidates. I hope the other new citizens sworn in that day are also happy with their achievements but also studying the issues that are affecting our state and our nation. I hope they will uphold their oath to protect and defend their new nation, abandoning interests in other lands. I hope. If they have the work ethic, patriotism and drive of the Pilipino immigrants I’ve met in the last two years, they’ll do fine.
Rose and I are very grateful for all the support we received from family and friends.
A new citizen relaxes after the dust settles. -photo by Jeremy Griffith
Rose always gets people coming up to her saying, “Congratulations dear, now you can pay taxes like the rest of us!” to which Rose replies, “You’re crazy, I already paid the taxes!” Do you think the IRS would let us by without paying taxes, you are crazy.
I’ve put off writing this column because I didn’t know quite what to say. I guess the major thing I want people to know is what it took for us to get here and our gratitude for all who helped and supported us. That’s all. And for all who want to come here and enjoy the benefits of citizenship I want to say this, please don’t violate our laws to do it. Do the right thing, the legal thing. The benefits of citizenship are massive, but so are the responsibilities. Both go hand in hand. Don’t take on this journey if you are not able to accept one without the other. There is a path and many have taken it and have been grateful for it. You can do it too, if you want to become a citizen of the United States of America.
Rose and I are very grateful for everyone who made this day possible. -Jeremy Griffith, The American Millennium