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A Dash of Pepper

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Legal immigrants are now beginning to speak against a government that allows a flood of illegal immigrants to continue almost unchecked.
They are resentful that they obeyed a complex set of procedures and met fairly stringent standards in order to immigrate. As an immigrant myself, I understand their frustrations.
I began to think about immigrating in the early 1970s. Nationalized healthcare had come to Canada and taxes were soaring. The so-called "Quiet Revolution" was going on in Quebec, featuring not-so-quiet bombs in mailboxes and a dead cabinet minister.
I went to the U.S. Consulate in Montreal to inquire. I was told that preference went to desirable professions, such as doctors, lawyers, etc. Otherwise, I would need to prove that I was financially independent and not likely to become a ward of the state, or that I had a primary relative in the United States who would be responsible for me.
Informally, I was told that another route would be to seek a job in a U.S.company with a Canadian subsidiary. After a few months, I found such a position and eventually, the chance for a transfer to New York came up. The first step was a trip to New York to rent an apartment. Lady Luck was with me and I found the perfect spot, on the Upper West Side, within two days.
I immigrated in April, 1979. Here is what I had to do at that time.
My firm was transferring me to the New York headquarters from their Canadian headquarters so, beforehand, they were required to show that there was no one employed in their New York office that had qualifications similar to mine. They were able to show that the job I would be doing, in the international marketing unit, would require fluency in a foreign language - in my case, French.
When I was ready to actually leave Canada, upon boarding the aircraft, I was given an I-94 slip. I was asked by a U.S immigration officer if I knew that, when I stepped off the aircraft in New York, I would be officially classified as a landed immigrant.
It was rather an exciting ride, although I had taken that same plane any number of times on regular business travel. The sun had set, and as the plane approached LaGuardia, the city sparkled below like a sheet of diamonds.
The next day, I went to a paralegal in the office of the attorney the company had hired to look after immigrating employees. I was given an L-1 visa. This could be renewed annually for up to three years.
By the beginning of the third year, I had to decide on whether to apply for a "green" card, that is, permanent residency status. I applied and so began a lengthy process.
First came a lung x-ray to test for tuberculosis, then a visit to the 87th precinct to be finger-printed. Inside, I took a wrong turn and arrived in a room where a lady in a wire cage and a detective were screaming at each other. Her language was very salty. Also, all the walls were uniformly painted puce green.
Then I was required to fill out a fairly lengthy questionnaire. I don't know what the form contains nowadays, but in 1982 it contained the question, "Are you now or have you ever been a Communist?"
After everything had been sent in, the "green card" arrived about five months later. It was actually blue and white plastic with the words Resident Alien at the top, my photograph, name, and a number. I was required to carry that card with me at all times, which did not seem to be a good idea. During my six years in New York, my handbag was stolen once and two more attempts were made. The card would be highly saleable.
I married and moved to Texas in early 1985. I applied for citizenship in mid-1986. I went to a lawyer who specialized in immigration and citizenship, to expedite the process. This cost me $500.
The process involved learning about the U.S. Constitution and the system of government from materials provided by the Department of Citizenship & Immigration. These were not particularly difficult, nor were they especially easy. A person who could barely read English might have a hard time with the material.
When I felt ready, an interview was arranged during which I was quizzed on the material in a series of about half a dozen questions. I passed the test and was told that when my citizenship court date came up, I would be notified. This was in early 1987 and I received the notification in early 1990.
My husband Charlie accompanied me to the Dallas Courthouse where I found about forty-five other people who would also be sworn in that day. The judge had rather a colorful name which now eludes me. I want to say it was Barefoot Saunders, but I'm not sure.
Ladies from the Daughters of the American Revolution led the ceremonial portion. They offered readings from The Founders, and we sang God Bless America. I sat between a girl from Australia and a South Korean dishwasher who barely spoke English. He said he and his wife wanted to start their own restaurant. A Chinese lady behind me said she was 90 years old!
The judge swore us in as citizens and led us in the Jeffersonian Pledge, which is reserved just for new citizens. We then sang "The Star-Spangled Banner." And the ceremony was done. We lined up to receive the Certificate of Naturalization. My husband was almost in tears. He found the ceremony moving and he had heard many inspiring stories from people around him.
It was a life-changing day for everyone in that courtroom and, for me, the culmination of a long journey.