Last week I went from being a person subject to suspicion, retinal photographing, fingerprinting, and interviewing, whenever I entered the US to someone who was welcomed. I am a white, British, professional, employed by the federal government, who has lived in the US on various visas for 26 years. My relief was probably nothing compared with what it would have been if I had darker skin, an Arabic name, or marginal employment.
My US citizenship application was approved, and I was ready to be “naturalized” (having previously been unnatural?). The ceremony started late. We were welcomed by a motherly woman who said she normally worked in passports, and asked if we had seen two federal agents with a briefcase who were carrying our naturalization certificates. Somehow this was not reassuring. She told us of the traditions of her Polish grandmother, and urged us not to abandon the traditions of our native countries. She exhorted us to volunteer in our communities, as if all of us had been loath to take part in the church bake sale for fear of being rejected because we weren’t American citizens.