Skip to content

Citizenship is a Gift

 Sister Regina Siegfried, ASC

By Sr. Regina Siegfried, ASC

On a cold, windy, and snowy January 19, 2024, I braved the elements to go to the downtown Eagleton Federal Building to join my Iraqi student, her husband, three children, and their “American mom” to witness Dunya’s oath of citizenship. With 39 new citizens from 28 countries, the courtroom was crowded with some of the bravest people in our country, people who have left their native lands, cultures, and families to seek safety and a better life.

I often had ambivalent feelings when Dunya and I studied the text that explains the geography, history, and governmental system of the United States. Our country’s lofty ideals often seem blurred by racism, partisanship, polarization, and disagreement. Dunya assured me that as refugees they are now safe and free in a flawed land. Her husband Amjed reflected on their eight years in this country; they arrived with two suitcases and a lot of hope. They now own a small house; he has a good job and plans to get his engineering certificate so that he can work as an engineer in this country. Dunya and Amjed, refugees and now American citizens, want ordinary things – safety, freedom, decent housing, a good job, and a quality education for their three American-born young children.

I volunteer as a tutor IHELP (Immigrant Home English Learning Program) that focuses on language, texts, goals, and progress. It’s also about so much more, as the relationships and love develop over time and during classes The League of Women Voters registered them after the ceremony so that they can exercise their new voting privilege. Watching them fill out the forms was almost as moving as watching Dunya raise her hand and recite the oath of citizenship. I’ve been humbled, privileged, and extremely enriched as her teacher and by being able to call them friends.

That’s Arabic for “God is good.” (And no, I’ll never learn Arabic!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *