I originally planned to be in San Francisco from Sunday through Sunday to maximize time with family, friends, and colleagues, but I had to cut it short when we received a notification a couple weeks ago that Chris’s naturalization ceremony was scheduled for this morning. He had applied to become a citizen last August after all of the political nonsense that this country is facing with Trump being president. Trump as president has really spurred a lot of people to become more politically active, which is great news. Chris wanted to have his voice heard, so this was the result.
You’d think that if you were being sworn in to become a citizen of a new country that it would be a celebratory event, that it would be an occasion that would be happy, full of smiles, music, and praise. Well, that was not what I witnessed today. As soon as we entered the courthouse, all of our phones and any “smart” device were confiscated, neatly placed into a “smart phone cubby” that was organized by medallion number. No electronics of any sort were allowed into the building; they’d hold it for you. Then, as visitors sat down, the new citizens had to have all their paperwork organized and ready for when the officers needed them.
And, it’s no wonder that they ban all electronics and thus recording devices because it is absolutely disgusting what you’d see if I actually videoed what I saw today. As a country, we should be ashamed of how we treat newly naturalized citizens. There was not even an ounce of warmth, of respect, of anything positive in that room in the entire three-plus hours I sat in there waiting.
I witnessed some of the most inhuman interactions today. There was a line to get your papers checked, and a second line to get a second check done. It wasn’t clear that there was a second line given how people were organizing themselves. An officer says to someone walking towards the line, “Are you lost? The line is right there!” as though he’s some total incompetent blind person. Another officer berated another person who didn’t have her papers organized as though she was a little child; this new potential citizen was at least in her 40s. Every interaction I witnessed made me more and more angry. I was just bracing myself for how they were going to treat Chris when he got up there.
When Chris finally got to the front and was showing his papers, the interaction seemed pretty benign; no meanness or tone of arrogance coming from the officer, which was not what I’d previously witnessed.
Two hours later of waiting with no electronics, phones, or books in hand, the “ceremony” began (can I add that there was a rack of magazines that were roped off that said “do not touch”? How more evil can you possibly be when you’ve stripped everyone of their smart phones?). We recited the pledge of allegiance, a judge came out to give a speech to basically encourage everyone to vote… because of course she would do this since she’s a lesbian with a family, and has her own agenda to push.
She said that of all the judges she’d spoken with, this ceremony was what gave them the most joy in their jobs. That was total garbage, every word out of her mouth; they got to sit in there in their robes for ten minutes to talk about the hopes and dreams of becoming an American, yet they didn’t have to sit and wait through the last two hours of being stripped of electronics, being dehumanized in line, talked to like children, or the last five, ten, fifteen, or however many years it took all these people, mostly people of color, to get to this dehumanizing room to get ‘naturalized’ today. Everything about today’s ceremony was crap; there wasn’t even a moment where I thought, if I were getting naturalized today in this room, I’d be ecstatic, proud to be here. We were both just eager to get the hell out of there as soon as possible. All I could hear out of Chris’s mouth were expletives under his breath. And I couldn’t really blame him. But I honestly could not feel that happy, either, even though his “status” would be changing. It was a truly terrible experience for the entire three hours we were in there.
We ended the day with a beautiful omakase dinner with two good friends and drinks downtown. We had to have something to look forward to after such a crappy U.S. government experience. But this marks the end of my love’s immigration hell. This is truly the end.
And as Chris reminds me, now he doesn’t need me anymore and could divorce me. Heh.