Becoming a US citizen is always a big deal to many people around the world, mostly for those who came to America as immigrants or refugees. Everyone always dreams of becoming one. I understand why. America is one of the greatest countries in the world. Everyone wants to be an American and proud to have that navy-blue passport book.
For me, I cannot say I was extremely excited or motivated to become a citizen. I didn’t feel like anything would really change for me. I am not a native-born, I am an immigrant and person of color. We face things differently every day no matter our paperwork. The realization that you are technically “renouncing” your own home country is always uncomfortable.
There are privileges for some to becoming a US citizen, but for a black African with an accent I will always feel different. I always feel that people will never see you as a true American. They will always ask you, “Where are you from?” “What is your accent?” I always get those questions. But do not forget that, almost all Americans are immigrants in one way or another.
Many people also tend to forget that you must pay to become a citizen. It is not free. Not only does it cost $750 to file the application and receive your naturalization certificate, you must be an exemplary citizen. You cannot have any felony or pending violations on your record. You must be clean for the 5 years it takes before you can apply.
Even though citizenship is a unique reality for different types of people, I am still grateful for the opportunity to start fresh. I blame my home country that has failed me. Congo could not protect me and my family. A country that could not give my family and I the opportunity for the free life we deserve. We could not even enjoy Congo in all its beauty and natural resources because of fear and insecurity.
I never imagined owning up to another country’s citizenship. Why would I? Growing up in Congo you believe that Congo can offer to the world the true “Wakanda.” Unfortunately, because of corruption, a disabled government, selfish leaders, and ongoing conflicts my country is now considered one of the “shithole” countries. I would have to agree actually. If you disagree try to convince me otherwise.
As much as I love my country and am proud to be a Congolese I cannot hide how Congo has deceived its people in all aspects of life, generation after generation.
It brings me tears to see the people of a country rich in gold, diamonds, oil, zinc, uranium, (might as well add vibranium to the list!) suffer daily on less than a dollar a day, being killed like animals, lack of access to clean water, proper education and dying of easily treatable diseases.
Employment is nearly non-existent. People are still learning under trees. There is no consistent health care access. Don’t even mention lack of roads, transportation, and technology. I can’t possibly name all the problems. There are just too many. Thousands of people are still fleeing Congo every day.
Now I was obliged to take a different path with a country that has welcomed me and given me opportunities that I never would have in Congo. I am grateful to not live every day in fear and misery.
Here are 5 main reasons why I decided to become a USA citizen:
1. For my future children: I don’t want my children to face a challenge of identify if I was not a citizen like them. I wouldn’t want them to go through the issues of trying to figure out who they are and where they belong by not being a citizen in this country. This will give them a purpose and a place of belonging as well as an identity. Live free and have access to opportunity available and make the most if it. If decided to take different path, then that's up to them
2. For my safety: Living in America as a young man of color and not being a citizen, you will never truly be safe because of the race history and all that is happening with people of color in this country. It’s not that being a citizen will help you avoid that but at least I am not an illegal immigrant or a refugee again facing threats of deportation. I will feel safe because immigration officers will never double check me or detain me for documentation issues, even when I drive from one state to another.
3. For more opportunities: Being a USA citizen had increased my chance of opportunities. I am be able to apply to any job without limitation. I am be able to work in the government institutions and able to access some local government position if I want to (may be becoming a major one day or a local representative), Why not?! But I can’t be a president, well may be my son… you never know! I am also be able to vote and chose the people I want to be represented with.
4. Easy travel around the world: As a person who likes to travel and adventures around the world, being a US citizen will make travel around the world simpler. Just by being a USA citizen I can travel to more than 170 countries without even applying for a visa. Opportunity that i could never have (as far as I know) by just having a Congo passport.
5. Having a sense of belonging: Being a U.S citizen makes me feel at home. It makes me considering myself as an important person regardless of my background. As an immigrant, there is always that feeling of setback, lack of belonging, lack of self esteem but since I became a U.S. citizen I started feeling differently. I became more motivated than usual. I know this might sound strange to some Americans but the truth is, many americans take a lot of things for granted and complain about everything. Most of them don't realize the privilege and the opportunity that this country can offer.
Over all, I am very grateful and proud to be American!
God bless America!