More than 12 years ago, my darling and I embarked on a journey to start our lives as a married couple. We didn’t have a typical beginning. He is American and I am Canadian. And while our countries share the longest border, and friendly relations – the process of moving me to the United States was complicated.
It required a mountain of paperwork, lawyers and their fees, and an entire a year of back-and-forth and lots of waiting in between. And even after all of that work, I wasn’t American. I was granted a permanent resident card, which allowed me to live (and work) in the United States with my new husband – after living apart for six months while waiting for things to go through.
It was a lot of work. It was worth it, but still – a lot of work, and I wasn’t even rewarded with citizenship for all of my effort. I say that facetiously, but also not.
I knew of individuals who happily lived in the United States as permanent residents, paying their taxes and engaged in their communities without ever becoming American. And after the rigmarole that was involved in getting my permanent resident card, I decided I’d be one of those people too. Also – I hate taking tests and in order to gain citizenship, I’d have to take an oral civics test.
I put the thought of becoming American out of my mind for years. I was busy building a career, having a family, and cargiving. That was enough.
Until I had to transfer some money that we had saved for the children from one brokerage firm to another. Previously, those funds had been registered in my name in trust of our children’s names. In 2013, when we moved to a home across town, I tried to transfer the funds over to a new location and the customer service representative told me that my name couldn’t be listed on the account anymore as the representative because I wasn’t American. My Canadian citizenship had become a crutch.
If something were to happen to my darling before the children reached 18 years old, who would we list on these accounts as their representatives? Sometimes, caregiving means asking the tough questions.
There are other examples of my citizenship hindering our lives in the United States – and I had become open to the possibility of applying for American citizenship.
I suppose what really pushed me over the edge were the nearly daily stories of people being picked up by ICE. While I have absolutely no questions myself about the validity of my status – I came here legally, and I remain here as a legal, permanent resident – who’s to say that others may not ask questions. More than anything, I wanted there to be 100 percent clarity on my status as a person in this country.
And so, on July 24, I will pledge allegiance to the United States of America. The country that has been my home for most of my adult life, the place where my children were born, and where we bought our first house.
The added bonus is that I’ll be able to vote in the next Federal election (as well as State and Local) – and you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be on the lookout for candidates that identify caregiving as a major issue in the coming years. I’m curious to see if caregiving is even on anybody’s radar this time around. If it isn’t, I’ll be writing some letters.