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Becoming a US citizen in Trump’s America

A few weeks ago, in a cavernous convention centre, 2,507 people from 121 different countries took the oath to become US citizens.

Hundreds more sat at the back, family and friends, beaming and buzzing with anticipation, ready to celebrate their loved one’s landmark moment.

It was an extremely moving day – and the end, for many, of a long and fraught journey.

It was also very inspiring – and I know because I was one of the 2,507.

Every one of us in that crowd had our own story about how we had come to be sitting there, with a little hand-out Stars and Stripes flag, as newly-minted citizens.


At its heart though, the ceremony was a powerful demonstration of what America is: a melting pot of diversity where tens of millions embrace and accept each other irrespective of origin, race or religion.

In a week when division and violence again dominates America’s news agenda, the beauty of that ideal is worth clinging on to.

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For one man’s act of hatred in El Paso last weekend, there have been a million acts of kindness in that city ever since. In those, skin colour and background were irrelevant.

And while, thankfully, most us can’t comprehend how someone could gun down innocent back-to-school shoppers, most of us can understand the need for community.

No one can pretend that America isn’t divided right now. The rancour fills the screens and the noise can be deafening.

Politicians of both parties vie for the high ground with increasingly startling language, all of them having failed to solve decades-old crises when they had the chance.

Immigration, legal and illegal, the desperate seeking asylum, the ‘Dreamers’ with an uncertain future – how can a country that IS a migrant story not find the answers?

Image: An anti-Trump protester and a Trump supporter argue outside the University Medical Center, El Paso

As the judge at our oath ceremony pointed out, anyone not of Native American heritage is in the US because of immigration, the president included. He added that those who have chosen citizenship are just as much citizens as those granted it by birth.

He was speaking in one of the most diverse cities in one of the most diverse states in the country. Los Angeles and California – which once belonged to Mexico – are not without their problems but they are a beacon of diversity as a success story

Some 750,000 people are ‘naturalised’ as US citizens every year. I have seen up close the joy and love of country on some of their faces

Whatever today’s horror show, they, like most Americans, are determined not to let the hate win.


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