78: Home Sweet Home

78: Home Sweet Home

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of America

Home Sweet Home

Everywhere immigrants have enriched and strengthened the fabric of American life.

~President John F. Kennedy

I had taken the day off from school so I could head to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) building in Newark, New Jersey to be sworn in as a citizen. Before leaving my house to drive to Newark, however, my mother and father made sure that I was dressed respectfully. I wore a gray suit jacket, khaki pants, black belt, white button-down shirt, red tie, and black dress shoes. On the way to the USCIS building, I pondered about many things. What was I missing in my Language Arts class? Did I get an A on my Algebra II mid-term? When would I be able to make up my Sports Medicine test?

The importance of what was about to happen never hit me.

An hour after leaving my house, we had arrived. My appointment was not for a while, but it was good to be early. My parents and I proceeded through the security checkpoint at the USCIS building and made our way to the room where I would fill out paperwork and wait to be called.

For me, the wait was one of the best parts of the entire process. There were people of so many different ethnicities and cultures in the room with me. It was fascinating to be surrounded by people from so many walks of life.

After about an hour, my name still hadn’t been called. My father went up to inquire and learned we were in the wrong room! With only fifteen minutes before my swearing-in ceremony, we rushed up to the next floor and signed in with the security guard. Two minutes later, one of the employees closed the doors.

I looked around my new waiting room and realized that everyone there was under the age of eighteen. And then it clicked. Usually the citizenship process takes a very long time. But for children under the age of eighteen whose parents are American citizens, the process is expedited.

After a quick briefing by one of the directors of the Immigration Services, a short video was played. The video depicted historical monuments, illustrated the history of America, stated the responsibilities of being a United States citizen, and ended with the singing of the national anthem. To my surprise, the director insisted that everyone join in the singing. To be quite honest, singing is not my forte. I was afraid that every window from Newark to San Diego would shatter. But due to my deep respect for my new country, I sang. Then the process began. One by one, an immigration official called everyone’s name to come up and receive his or her certificate of citizenship. Since the calling of the names was alphabetically sequenced by last names, I did not have that long to wait.

“Daniel Martin Hurley, please come up.”

My life had now changed forever. I was an American. I was home.

~Daniel Martin Hurley

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