Sunday, April 01, 2007


The last two Saturdays I have had to work. My agency sponsors a Citizenship Day and then we provide three Saturdays as a follow up to help people fill out their N-400 form.

So what the heck is an N-400 you may ask. That is the form that the wizards at the Department of Homeland Security use to process eligible residents to become citizens. It is a loooong, multiple page form asking some very interesting questions. We, staff and volunteers, assist these folks with this application. It has been a very eye opening experience for me. I want to share some of my experiences.

First, I find it amazing to see the complexities of people's lives. I was working with a man who had a traumatic brain injury so he cannot remember his work history. The people from southeast Asia have very complex histories that are a product of wars, dictators and genocide. One woman from Cambodia could not remember her birthday or the birthdays of two of her children. I could never imagine what she has seen or experienced in her lifetime.

Some of the questions on the form are kind of cheeky. Like asking a 70 something Vietnamese woman if she was ever a prostitute. Then her daughter has to translate the question for her. Or was she a drug addict, a habitual drunkard? These fall under the category of morality questions. Plus, what person is going to say yes? No drunk or drug user could get through this process! It is long, it requires patience and a real desire to get to the citizenship ceremony. This is not for the faint hearted!

At the end of very long days, though, I felt like I had done my part to make the US a better place, more of the real melting pot and less of a hypocrisy. I look forward to seeing more citizens who will vote and participate in a real democracy.

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