Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Married to a foreign country: India-born Saritha Prabhu becomes a U.S. citizen

Tennessean columnist compares citizenship oath to wedding vow; had been becoming "American" for years

Consistently thoughtful Saritha Prabhu describes in her Tennessean column her oath of U.S. citizenship, which she and her husband took on the Friday before Thanksgiving this year. (A belated congratulations to Ms. Prabhu and her husband.)

"The Friday before Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 17, was a big day for us — my husband and I took the oath of U.S. citizenship. Fourteen years ago, we'd said 'I do' to each other and in this, our 15th year in the United States, we said 'I do' to this great nation."

"As a newly minted American, I guess I felt a little like one half of a cohabiting couple who, having lived together for long, decides to go and get that marriage license: It is an important step, but just a step that puts an official stamp on what you've been feeling for some time."

"In legal terms, I had become an American that day, but I'd been becoming an American in gradual, incremental ways over the years — when I stopped feeling like a tourist here, when I went back 'home' to India but was secretly relieved to be back home here; when I volunteered for the first time, when I began taking an active interest in the issues facing this country. And I could go on and on."

Prabhu also described the U.S. approach toward immigrants as allowing them time to assimilate at their own pace, favoring it over Europe's harsher approach which she says alienates and marginalizes its immigrants.

The column promises to be the first in a series that will offer "a window into the whole naturalization process — the paperwork, the boning up on U.S. history and the Constitution for the interview, the oath and, most important, the internal conversation with the self that preceded all these steps."

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