Letter to the Editor

A grateful naturalized citizen offers perspective on the election

Friday, November 2, 2018

1967. I lived on a farm in Saskatchewan Canada with my husband and five children. My husband wanted to go to Nebraska to avoid the cold winters. Our first trip had to be made to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, a 500-mile one-way with our five children. We needed to fill out paperwork and take pictures for our USA Alien Registration. We had to prove that my husband had a job waiting for him here in the USA. Fortunately, I had a cousin in Omaha who was a CPA who lined up the employment for my husband. We arrived in Omaha in November 1967. Each year we would receive a notice from the immigration department that it was time to verify our address. This went on for many years. Employed in Omaha and then at other locations, we always filed our annual income tax, (with my cousin doing the scrutiny) and paid taxes due. After many years, we no longer received the cards to verify our location. I was concerned about it, wondering if we would be asked to leave, that never happened. Upon checking at the postal service, I was informed that the address verification was no longer a requirement. In a way I felt disappointed that we no longer needed to inform the government of our whereabouts, perhaps it was a feeling of belonging, that seemed to be taken away.

Years passed and we continued to pay our annual taxes but were not eligible to vote. At first, I was relieved, because I wasn’t comfortable choosing people (candidates) I didn’t know anything about.

Fast forward to 2006. I was facing life alone. Our children were all grown and living their own lives (in the USA ). Election news was up and running. I became disheartened that I could not vote for an issue that was very important to my belief: the issue of abortion. How could I continue to live here and not raise my concern about the most important issue to man … Life. I decided to pursue what it would take to become a citizen. I went to the website and before I could SEE what was required, I had to submit $499. WOW! $499 just to see? I made the decision it was time to “bite the bullet” and ‘Go for it. I submitted my $499. and was then able to find out what was entailed in my pursuit to become a USA citizen. A form of many questions, including who my parents were, where they lived, why I wanted to become a citizen and many, many more, including any felonies and other legal terms (I had to look up to understand.) This was only the beginning. There would be three trips to Omaha, a 100-point questionnaire that I would be responsible for knowing and, of course. fingerprinting.

I began the trek, slowly filling out forms and making arrangements to go to Omaha. (I could not say “I can come on this or that day”) I was informed when I needed to be there. I questioned why I had to drive to Omaha for fingerprinting, and why not at the local law enforcement. They said because of the details needed in the procedure, that local law enforcement fingerprinting was not detailed enough at that time...

After what seemed to be “ALL” done, I was required to make another trip for the final questioning. I was nervous. There were the 100 questions to study and these were the ones I would be tested on. Yes, I was really nervous especially if my answers hinged on correct answers to gain citizenship. I don’t remember the first question, but I got it right, then I was asked what was the National Anthem. Being tense and nervous, I couldn’t recall the title, so I said: “I can sing it for you.” And I began to sing it! “That’s OK, “ she said. After a quiet moment, the officer said, “You are now a Citizen of USA! There is a ceremony this afternoon at ..1 p.m.... if you would like to stay for it” giving me the details. “Of Course I will stay!” was my reply. I was a bit stunned, as I had No one with me to watch and celebrate with me. ( Just me and my car!) But I stayed.

There were about 20-25 others, from Australia, England, Africa, middle eastern countries and more, and ME.

We were seated in a dim room, where a gentleman read something to us. Yes, I said “Something.” I don’t even remember what he read because he seemed to “ramble” on, never once looked up from his paper to smile at us, or see if we were awake, or to acknowledge our presence. It was so disappointing! He had no excitement in his voice and I was so happy and proud. There was a welcome video from the president of the United States and pictures of our country: cities, skyscrapers, wheat fields … and many more. In the background, the song “I’m Proud to Be An American “played. My Spirit was so full of joy, I wanted to stand up & sing along, but I was shy to do that in front of all these “foreigners,” besides, everyone was so quiet. To this day, I regret my reluctance. Today I am not afraid to stand up for the USA. I have voted in every election since that day and I try to be an informed voter.

This all began in 2006 and ended in November 2007. I returned from Omaha the day after there was a nasty November ice storm in McCook. Upon seeing all the debris on my grass and being so elated to be a US Citizen, I joyfully cleaned up my yard since I felt that now I was truly responsible for keeping the country tidy!

My message is to encourage all citizens to take their privilege of voting seriously. Know what is at stake.

With gratitude,

Helen Bieker,

McCook, Neb.

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  • Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your pursuit of citizenship.

    -- Posted by flynh3 on Sat, Nov 3, 2018, at 8:52 AM
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