Thursday, August 14, 2008

"Freedom is Not Free."

I wrote this letter to the San Jose Mercury News today. I wonder if they'll print it.

Today (Thursday, August 14, 2008), I was among thousands of people who paid $8 per car to park at the County Fairgrounds and NOT get to see my husband become an American citizen. It took ages for the new citizens to actually get inside the facility, but most of the guests who had come along to watch never got to go inside. At no time did USCIS tell people attending this ceremony what to expect upon arrival. No signs, no workers from the Fairgrounds or USCIS to tell people where to go or what to do. Much of today's terribly planned disaster could have been avoided with a simple "what to expect at your naturalization ceremony" document enclosed with the directions sent to new citizens.

I am a very proud and patriotic American by birth. I was embarrassed and ashamed at how we were treated today. When ONE person from USCIS FINALLY came outside to tell people how they might let people in five or ten at a time, he was very rude to the people who had assembled. The line of thousands dispersed for the most part after being told we would not be allowed inside to witness the ceremony. It was very hot and sunny, so most people headed for whatever shade they could find. And then we proceeded to wait and wonder how long it would take before the new citizens would be done with the ceremony many of us would never see. I am truly heartbroken that after all this time, all the forms and fees, and all the waiting inherent in the immigration system, I did not get to see my husband take his oath of naturalization. We had brought my son (age 4), my step-daughter and her boyfriend, and a family friend to the ceremony. If I had known what we would have encountered I would have gone alone or perhaps just brought my son. I had been telling him for weeks about when we would go to see Daddy become an American.

It is perhaps fitting that this ceremony is held at the County Fairgrounds. We were herded and spoken to like animals, and we were assumed to have the intelligence of cattle when the ONE representative from USCIS (or the Fairgrounds?) actually did bark at us. (The people who were waiting were actually surprising calm and respectful, despite the heat, dust, and aggravation.) I have to wonder if the lack of information about what to expect was just to get $8 per car (we had to bring two cars for our group, by the way) out of people ignorant to the mess that awaited us. At least WE live in San Jose. My heart goes out to the families and friends who traveled from all over Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Benito, and Monterey counties today only to be charged to park and then turned away at the door.

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