A Day in the Life: The Case of Mrs. Smith, Part III

Hopefully, this is the final installment of Mrs. Smith’s attempt to receive her citizenship papers from the U.S. Immigration Services in Denver. She was born in Canada from American parents and had lived and married in the U.S. for over 60 years-but never went through the citizenship process.

In Part I, Mrs. Smith was preparing for the Inquisition. In Part II, Mrs. Smith finally received her citizenship certificate…but it was not officially signed. In Part III, we returned to the Immigration Services for the coveted signature. Read Part I and Part II here. Last Thursday, I taxied the Grand Junction couple, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, down to Denver so that Mrs. Smith could go to the Citizenship and Immigration Services in Commerce City for her citizenship papers. Instead of fighting bad weather for a return trip over the mountains on Friday, we decided to stay in the Metro area until Sunday.

Friday night, Mrs. Smith discovered the immigration officials had not signed and sealed her new citizenship document.  Our plans changed again. To take care of this detail, we would need to stay until Monday so we could return to the immigration office.

It took us over an hour to crawl 20 miles in morning rush hour traffic. I have to admit being a little steamed about the whole situation. Why hadn’t the officials been a little more exact in their work, especially concerning a U.S. Citizenship certificate? Hundreds are dying to get across the border for this piece of paper.

People were standing in line outside the office in the weather (the entryway before the guard station is very small.) It was cold and Mr. and Mrs. Smith were in obvious discomfort. A Hispanic couple insisted we go before them so that we could be out of the chilling wind.

In confusion, Mrs. Smith started telling the guards about her problem and showed them the document with the missing signature. Of course, all they cared about was their metal detectors and pointed to the window where she must wait in another line. One guard joked, “Why didn’t you just sign it?”

OK, I confess; that thought had crossed my mind.

Mr. Smith forgot he had his penknife and that had to be thrown away before he could join Mrs. Smith. I showed a correct ID this time. A cell phone rang inside the building and the unfortunate person was asked to leave. Please, God! Make sure Mrs. Smith has her cell phone turned off!

It took minutes for an official to endorse the document. I looked at it. No seal and the person had no official title. Yep, anyone could have signed it….

In retrospect, I was relieved that Mrs. Smith had not been forced to take a citizenship test. By Friday morning she had been so nervous, she was transposing the Pledge of Allegiance with the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Because she had been born of American parents, was married to an American, and had a lawyer call  Immigration Services before her appearance, officials waived the testing and modified some of the requirements. Had this process been any more difficult, I think I would have been driving Mrs. Smith to the emergency room, not Immigration Services, on Monday.

Winter had hit again in the mountains and the roads were icy and snow packed as I escorted Mr. and Mrs. Smith back to Grand Junction. Mrs. Smith was still in distress over the whole procedure.  Five days on the road was hard on this elderly couple and it will take them a couple of more to recover. In fact, Mr. Smith, at nearly 80 years old, said he hoped it was his last trip to Denver.

When lawmakers legislated strong immigration measures, they failed to realize that they caught more than undocumented workers from Mexico in those laws. There are a lot of Mrs. Smiths who moved to the U.S. years ago, but never got their legal papers. Many do not have assistance and family information to stay; most have no ties to their birthplace to move back. What will happen to them?  If Mrs. Smith had not gotten her citizenship, she had few choices: live in Colorado with her family and lose medical coverage or move to an area with more lenient laws. The only connection to Canada was her birth certificate.

For those who were born in the States, but no longer have their birth certificates, they are severely restricted under Colorado’s HB 1023. How will they retain their governmental services, drivers license and perhaps their job if they cannot produce birth certificates or proof of citizenship?

Amid all these questions, there is a happy ending for one—my friend, Mrs. Smith.

Note: I Googled “U.S. Naturalization” and it had nearly 3 million search responses; “U.S. Immigration” had 48 million; and “U.S. Birth Certificates” had 4.5 million. There were thousands of businesses offering to help a person through the process…for a price, of course. It was hard to tell the official government Web sites from the bogus ones. In response to Homeland Insecurity, a bootleg industry has been nurtured. How many Mrs. Smiths will be ripped-off? 

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