The Path to Citizenship with New Citizen Shaila Tewani | Connecting Point | Sept. 9, 2019


>>IT’S SOMETIMES SAID THAT
AMERICANS TAKE THE FREEDOMS OF THIS COUNTRY ALL FOR GRANTED. THAT’S NOT THE CASE FOR OUR NEXT
GUEST WHO WAS SWORN IN AS A — WHO WAS SWORN IN AS A U.S.
CITIZEN THIS SUMMER. CARRIE SALDO SAT DOWN WITH THE
TWO TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PATH OF CITIZENSHIP.>>I CAME HERE BECAUSE I NEEDED
TO BE SAFE. FIRST I GOT HERE AS A STUDENT
AND THE FIRST THING I APPLIED FOR ASYLUM WHICH WAS APPROVED
AND THEN AFTER A YEAR, I HAD TO APPLY FOR MY GREEN CARD AND THEN
AFTER THAT I HAD TO WAIT 5 YEARS TO BECOME A CITIZEN. SO UNITED STATES HAS BEEN REALLY
A SAFE PLACE FOR ME AND A LOT OF PEOPLE —
>>AND WHEN YOU TALK YOU CAME HERE AND YOU WANT TO BE SAFE —
YOU’RE FROM THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO.>>YES.>>TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT
YOUR EXPERIENCE AND WHAT LIFE WAS LIKE, YOU KNOW, BEFORE
COMING TO THE UNITED STATES.>>LET’S JUST SAY A LOT OF
POLITICAL ISSUES OVER THERE. THIS IS ONE OF THE REASONS I
CHOOSE TO COME HERE WITH THE DETAILS I’M NOT REALLY
COMFORTABLE SHARING IT. BUT I JUST NEEDED TO BE SAFE
HERE, SO, YEAH.>>WOULD YOU SAY LAURIE,
OBVIOUSLY THERE’S SOME TRAUMA THERE THAT, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE
HAVE EXPERIENCED THAT’S GOT TO BE SO INCREDIBLY HARD WHEN
YOU’RE WORKING WITH PEOPLE?>>YES, AND IT’S FAIRLY COMMON,
AND SO WE HOPE THAT OUR STAFF ARE TRAUMA-INFORMED AND TRY TO
STAY AWAY FROM ISSUES THAT ARE LIKELY TO TRIGGER PEOPLE IS BEST
WE CAN.>>SO HER PROCESS — IT TOOK
MAYBE ABOUT 9 YEARS, I THINK, IS WHAT YOU DESCRIBED AND SHE HAD
REFUGEE STATUS.>>RIGHT.>>TELL US ABOUT THE PROCESS,
YOU KNOW, FOR PEOPLE, IS THAT TYPICAL? DOES IT TAKE THAT LONG
TYPICALLY?>>IT’S ALWAYS A JOURNEY. IT’S MUCH MORE A JOURNEY THAN, I
THINK, MOST AMERICANS REALIZE. WE’RE BORN INTO THE CITIZENSHIP
AND WE TEND TO TAKE IT FOR GRANTED BUT IF YOU ARE ACCEPTED
AS A REFUGEE, THEN YOU DO HAVE A PATHWAY TO CITIZENSHIP. AS SHEILA SAID AFTER YOU’VE BEEN
HERE AS A REFUGEE YOU CAN GET YOUR GREEN CARD AND AFTER YOU
GET YOUR GREEN CARD YOU CAN APPLY FOR CITIZENSHIP FOR 5
YEARS. THAT’S A PROCESS YOU HAVE TO —
YOU FILL IT’S AN APPLICATION WHICH IS PRETTY LONG. IT’S ABOUT 22 PAGES. WE HELP PEOPLE HELP WITH THAT
PROCESS BECAUSE IT’S VERY DETAILED. THERE’S A BIOMETRICS APPOINTMENT
WHERE YOU GET FINGERPRINTED BY IMMIGRATION. AND THEN YOU PREPARE FOR THE
INTERVIEW. SO YOU STUDY AND YOU NEED TO
KNOW 100 QUESTIONS RELATING TO U.S. HISTORY, GOVERNMENT,
CIVICS. THEY’LL ONLY ASK YOU 10 — WELL,
THEY’LL ASK YOU 6 IF YOU PASS THE FIRST 6 BUT — YOU NEED TO
BE PREPARED FOR 10 BUT IT COULD BE 10 OUT OF 100 SO YOU PREPARE
FOR THE INTERVIEW. YOU NEED TO DO A LITTLE WRITING. YOU NEED TO DO A LITTLE READING. YOU NEED TO HAVE AN INTERVIEW
WITH THE IMMIGRATION OFFICER AND IT’S A JOURNEY AND IT’S
EXPENSIVE. YOU HAVE TO PAY A FEE TO APPLY
SO YOU NEED TO CONGRATULATE PEOPLE WHEN THEY BECOME CITIZENS
BECAUSE IT’S A LOT OF PERSISTENCE AND FOCUS THAT GETS
THEM THERE.>>THIS PROCESS WAS OBVIOUSLY
INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT TO YOU BUT IT’S A LONG ONE — I MEAN, TO
STUDY FOR THE TEST, DID YOU ALREADY KNOW ENGLISH WHEN YOU
CAME HERE?>>WELL, I LEARNED ENGLISH IN
HIGH SCHOOL JUST LIKE AMERICAN LEARNS FRENCH IN HIGH IN HIGH L
AND I HAD A GOOD BASIS AND I WENT TO COMMUNITY COLLEGE AND I
STARTED MY UNDERGRAD SO I WAS PRETTY GOOD IN ENGLISH.>>WHAT ARE YOU STUDYING.>>I’M STUDYING AN MBA AND I HAD
A BABY SO I HAD TO START.>>WHAT’S HIS NAME.>>LIAM.>>BABY BOY, HE’S SO QUIET AND
HE’S SO QUIET AND ADORABLE.>>A LOT OF THINGS JUST
HAPPENED. YOU HAD A BABY. CONGRATULATIONS THAT’S THE FIRST
THING AND YOU’RE A NEW AMERICAN. YOU JUST WERE SWORN IN JULY 4TH. HOW DOES THAT FEEL. THAT’S JUST INCREDIBLE?>>YOU KNOW, HONESTLY I CAN’T
EVEN BELIEVE I’M AN AMERICAN. IT’S LIKE A JET STREAM HONESTLY. IT’S JUST BEEN A COUPLE OF
WEEKS — IT’S LIKE A DREAM HONESTLY. IT’S BEEN A COUPLE OF WEEKS. I CAN BE FREE AND MY —
>>DID YOU REGISTER TO VOTE.>>I DID JULY 4th BEFORE LEAVING
I DID. JUST KNOWING I’M PROTECTED AND
IF THERE’S ANYTHING IS PROTECTED BY AMERICANS. IT’S JUST A BLESSING. IT’S THE BEST THING THAT COULD
HAPPEN TO ME THIS YEAR.>>WHAT’S THE PROCESS LIKE FOR
YOU AND FOR OTHERS WHO WORK WITH YOU TO SEE SOMEBODY LIKE SHAYLA,
YOU KNOW, COMPLETE THIS PROS.>>THAT’S WHY YOU DO THE WORK
THAT YOU DO ESPECIALLY NOW WHEN THERE’S SO MUCH NEGATIVE
RHETORIC. WE SEE THIS JOURNEY A LOT. PEOPLE JUST VERY FOCUSED. ONE STEP AT A TIME, ONE GOAL AT
A TIME AND WHEN THEY, YOU KNOW, REACH THE CULMINATION AND WE
KNOW THAT WE’VE HAD SOME SMALL MEASURE OF SUPPORT, IT’S WHY YOU
COME TO WORK EVERYDAY. VERY REWARDING.>>AND SHE MENTIONS JUST THE
BIG, I GUESS, DEBATE SURROUNDING IMMIGRATION IN THIS COUNTRY. I THINK, YOU KNOW, IT CERTAINLY
GETS PEOPLE FIRED UP ON BOTH SIDES. HERE YOU ARE, YOU KNOW, A NEW
AMERICAN. YOU DID HAVE REFUGEE STATUS BUT
IT TOOK A LONG TIME TO FINALLY BECOME AN AMERICAN CITIZEN. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT IT?>>HOW DO I FEEL ABOUT IT? I MEAN, REALLY WHEN SOMEBODY
COMES TO THIS COUNTRY AND NEEDS HELP AND ASKS TO STAY HERE, IT’S
BECAUSE WE’VE BEEN HERE SO MUCH AND WHEN WE COME HERE, WE DON’T
COME HERE TO SIT AROUND OR JUST, YOU KNOW, TAKE MONEY FROM THE
GOVERNMENT OR ANYTHING. WE NEED HELP SO TODAY I’M A
STUDENT AND I’M WORKING. I USED TO WORK AND STUFF BUT
WE’RE ALSO ADDING SOMETHING TO THIS COUNTRY, YOU KNOW, IT’S A
MELTING POT, I GUESS. I CALL IT A SALAD BOWL YOU CAN
LOOK AT DIFFERENT PEOPLE AND THE CULTURE SO YOU CAN SEE AND WE’RE
ADDING SOMETHING MORE TO THIS COUNTRY AND I’M THANKFUL THEY’RE
ACCEPTING US TO COME HERE. THEY SHOULD OPEN THE DOOR FOR
MORE PEOPLE HERE. NOT EVERYBODY IS BAD.>>BUT YOU CAME LEGALLY BECAUSE
OF THE REFUGEE STATUS, IT KIND OF PUTS IT SORT OF IN ALMOST A
DIFFERENT CATEGORY. IS IT HARDER. IT IS HARDER; RIGHT?>>SHE WAS FORTUNATE AND RIGHT
NOW THE REFUGEE STATUS IS SOMEWHAT ARBITRARY SO THERE’S AN
AWFUL A LOT OF PEOPLE AS SHAYLA SAID ARE COMING TO SITUATIONS
THAT ARE UNTENABLE AND SOME OF THEM — IT’S HARD TO CALL A
REFUGEE FORTUNATE BUT SOME PEOPLE GET THAT STATUS BUT THERE
ARE MANY OTHER PEOPLE WHOSE NEEDS MAY BE AS COMPELLING AND I
THINK TO SHALE YSHAYLA’S POINT E HAVE STUDENTS IN AMHERST,
GREENFOLD MANY OF THEM GO RUSHING OUT OF CLASS BECAUSE
THEY’RE WORKING MORE THAN ONE JOB. I HAVE YET TO MEET AN IMMIGRANT
AS SHAYLA SAID SITTING AT HOME COLLECTING MONEY. MOST OF THE PEOPLE I KNOW, THEY
DO RECEIVE PUBLIC BENEFITS AT THE BEGINNING OF THEIR TENURE
HERE BECAUSE THEY DON’T SPEAK THE, THEY DON’T KNOW THE
CULTURE. THEY’RE STILL RIGHT TO FIGURE
OUT HOW TO NAVIGATE THE SYSTEM. THE MINUTE THEY HAVE A MODICUM
OF INDEPENDENCE — I HAD ONE STUDENT SAID TO ME AND HE SAID
THANK YOU VERY MUCH. I DON’T NEED YOUR HELP ANYMORE. I’M A CERTIFIED NURSE AIDE NOW
AND WE DO THAT TRAINING — WE SEE PEOPLE THE MINUTE THEY HAVE
THEIR INDEPENDENCE THEY’RE PROUD. THEY DON’T WANT ANYBODY’S HELP. IT’S NOT LIKE PEOPLE COME HERE
TAKE THE BENEFITS. IT’S A STEPPING STONE, AND AS
SOON AS THEY CAN, THEY SAY THANK YOU. I’M ON MY OWN NOW.>>WHAT WOULD U.S. TO PEOPLE WHO
ARE IN — WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO PEOPLE WHO ARE IN YOUR SPOT
MAYBE SECOND YEAR IN THE PROCESS AND ARE DISCOURAGED, WHAT WOULD
YOU SAY?>>IT’S NOT EASY. IT’S VERY STRESSFUL AND JUST NOT
TO GIVE UP AND STAY FOCUSED AND, YOU KNOW, WHY YOU’RE HERE AND
JUST FOCUS ON THAT AND KEEP WORKING HARD, KEEP DOING THE
RIGHT THING AND DO NOT LISTEN TO OTHERS AND TRY TO DO SOMETHING
ILLEGAL OR ANYTHING. I CAME HERE LEGALLY AND I WILL
BE ABLE TO GET MY CITIZENSHIP. IT’S A LONG PROCESS, JUST BE
PATIENT.>>AND IS THERE SOMETHING — IF
YOU COULD WAVE A MAGIC WAND AND IS THIS THE WORK YOU DO AND WE
CAN’T SOLVE THE IMMIGRATION PROBLEM IN 8 MINUTES BUT IS
THERE SOMETHING THAT WOULD STREAMLINE THE PROCESS FOR
SOMEBODY WHO DOES NOT HAVE REFUGEE STATUS THAT WOULD MAKE
THINGS EASIER HE IN YOUR OPINION?>>– EASIER IN YOUR OPINION?>>I THINK THE CITIZENSHIP
PROCESS IS PRETTY CLEAR. I THINK THE OVERALL IMMIGRATION
POLICY IS VERY CONFUSED. THERE ARE WEIRD QUOTAS ABOUT,
YOU KNOW, DIFFERENT PLACES THAT PEOPLE COME FROM. THERE ARE WAITING LISTS FOR SOME
COUNTRIES AND NOT FOR OTHERS. I THINK BIPARTISAN IMMIGRATION
REFORM — TO HAVE A DIALOG, TO STEP BACK FROM ALL OF THE
HYSTERIA AND THE EMOTION AND HAVE A RATIONAL DIALOG — I
MEAN, I THINK SHALE LA’S POINT IS — SHAYLA’S RIGHT IS RIGHT. THEY PEOPLE COME HERE AND
CONTRIBUTE. WE HAVE A FARM ECONOMY, WE HAVE
FOOD SERVICE, WE HAVE HEALTHCARE, WE HAVE
MANUFACTURING — ALL OF THESE INDUSTRIES DEPEND ON AN INFLUX
OF NEW PEOPLE AND IF WE CUT THAT OFF OUR CULTURE SUFFERS, OUR
ECONOMY SUFFERS. WE NEED COMPREHENSIVE
IMMIGRATION REFORM. PEOPLE HAVE TO COME TOGETHER AND
WE NEED SOME KIND OF PATHWAY FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE ALREADY HERE. WHATEVER IT INVOLVES, PEOPLE ARE
HERE. THEY HAVE FAMILIES. THEY HAVE JOHBS. THEY ARE PART OF THE COMMUNITY. THERE NEEDS TO BE SOME WAY TO
FIGURE OUT HOW TO MAKE A PATHWAY FOR THEM IN A WAY THAT’S O
OPEN-HEARTED AND GENEROUS AND
LEGAL.

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