Posts Tagged ‘citizen’











Look how happy my friend was after the 2012 ceremony that gave her US citizenship.

The other day the young lady above and I came to a funny realization about what I thought she told me 20-plus years ago when we first knew each other.

At that time, as a recent immigrant, her English was not as fluent as it is now, and I wasn’t as good a listener. As a result, I’ve been believing a bogus story for decades — and telling it to other people!

A naturalized US citizen originally from Brazil, my friend runs a cleaning business that has long benefited my family. Today she and I were chatting, and she happened to mention that she had studied nursing for two years. I was surprised. As the information sank in, I was even astonished.

“Wait! What? You spent two years studying nursing before you came here at age 14 with your boyfriend?”

It was her turn to be astonished. “I didn’t come here at 14. Oh, no! Something wrong with communication!”

“You didn’t leave home at 14 with your boyfriend, now your husband? The two of you didn’t come here through Mexico and work on a farm?!”

“No! Oh, my goodness, no!”

“But that’s my story about you!” I exclaimed. “I have told that story to everyone.”

How we laughed!

She said, “I think I know what I told you that made you think I came here when I was 14.”

“You mean I have to completely rethink my story of your life! Well, OK. Gee. I liked the old story.”

Laughing, she explained, “I met my boyfriend when we lived in Brazil. He came to America first, and he said, ‘Why don’t you come?’ So I got a visa and came. I was 18.”

“18! Well, I guess I’m glad you didn’t leave home at 14 after all.”

“My father was upset enough that I came here at 18. Imagine if I had come at 14! He would never speak to me again.

“I think I told you that there was an opening to become a citizen at that time, but to qualify, you had to be living and working in the orange groves for five years already. I wasn’t good with numbers when I told you that it meant I would have to be 14 when I started picking oranges. I should have said 13.”

Then I replied, thinking that if she had told me “13,” I really might have questioned the story more, “So you never came through Mexico?”

“No, we were in Florida. And the US had a special amnesty for people who worked in the orange groves for five years.”

“And the two of you never worked on a farm?”

“No! First I worked in a nursing home, but I really couldn’t speak English. I couldn’t understand what people were asking me for. The manager had to demonstrate everything.

“One time an old man asked me for water over and over and over, and when he finally tried using Portuguese, I just cried because I knew I hadn’t been helping him or the other old people when they needed help. So I went and put an ad in the newspaper for cleaning houses. That’s how it started.”

She had some other great stories about misunderstandings in English and we laughed a lot. Now everything is cleared up.

(I hope.)

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Photo: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The museum now offers free family admission to new citizens.

The magnificent collections of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts have gotten out of reach for many people as admission on most days has escalated. So it was with great interest that I read at the MFA website about a generous program for one deserving group of people: New Americans.

“Starting July 1, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), [began welcoming] newly naturalized U.S. citizens living in Massachusetts with complimentary one-year family memberships through a new program called MFA Citizens — the first of its kind in the country. …

“Engaging new citizens is part of the MFA’s ongoing efforts to build a more inclusive community of visitors, volunteers, staff and supporters, fostering the next generation of museum-goers and professionals that reflects the region’s changing demographics. …

“New citizens can sign up for the program by showing a copy or photo of their naturalization certificates at any MFA ticket desk within one year of their ceremony.

“In addition to free admission to the MFA for one year for two adults and unlimited children (ages 17 and under), discounts on programs, shopping, parking and dining, and invitations to member events, the MFA Citizens membership includes a special in-person welcome packet in a custom-designed tote bag. Included in the packet [is] information about upcoming exhibitions and programs — available in Spanish, Chinese, Haitian Creole and Portuguese, the most common non-English languages spoken at home in Boston. On-site signage in these languages will also be placed at the MFA’s Huntington, Fenway, and Schools and Groups entrances to encourage enrollment. …

“The Museum will work with Project Citizenship, the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement and Boston Public Library to raise awareness of the MFA Citizens program among the approximately 25,000 immigrants who are expected to go through the naturalization process across the Commonwealth within the next year. …

“In addition to hosting ESL classes and conversation groups, Boston Public Library’s Central Library in Copley Square and 24 neighborhood branches house Immigrant Information Corners, which provide information about resources and services available to help advance the well-being of the city’s immigrant residents.”

They don’t put this initiative in terms of the current controversies swirling around immigration, but to me it feels like an institution taking a positive stand in a troubling climate. I hope it will catch on.

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On the principle that “one and one and 50 make a million,” a better world relies on everybody pitching in. Ordinary people can help scientists and other leaders of worthy initiatives.

Lisa Mullins and Lynn Jolicoeur report at WBUR on one example.

“It’s a cloudy, cool July morning, and we’ve come to the docks at Fairhaven Shipyard, near New Bedford, to meet Chris Parks. She’s a tall, elegant, retired Boston banker in jeans and a sweatshirt.

“Parks is a volunteer with the Buzzards Bay Coalition. Residents formed the group 30 years ago to help the struggling bay.

“She’s got a plastic bottle attached to a long metal pole. She submerges it and fills it with sea water. Then she pulls out her tool box full of vials and chemicals. She mixes and measures.

“Parks determines the water is pretty cool on this day — 67 degrees. … In addition to temperature and clarity, Parks tests the water for how much salt and oxygen are in it. She’s been coming to this dock, fastidiously, one or two mornings a week for 17 years.

” ‘I’m doing it because it’s one of the few things that I can do that is a tangible task towards helping the environment,’ Parks says. ‘It’s a little bit of science that helps tell us what’s going on in Buzzards Bay.’

“What’s going on is that the water is warming — and that may be contributing to long-lasting pollution problems in the bay.”

Buzzards Bay Coalition science director Rachel Jakuba says, ” ‘If you have too much algae in the water, that’s when you get cloudy, murky water, loss of eel grass, low oxygen levels that make it hard for fish and shellfish to survive … Bay scallops are very rare now because part of their life cycle depends on eel grass blades.’

“The Buzzards Bay Coalition is attacking that pollution aggressively. It’s working with homeowners to upgrade their septic systems with technology that reduces nitrogen. …

“Jakuba says as researchers figure out how global warming fits into the bay pollution picture, citizen scientists will be key.

“Mark Sweitzer, 68, is a citizen scientist and lobsterman based at Point Judith in Galilee, Rhode Island. …

“Six times a month while he’s catching lobster, Sweitzer lowers a device to the bottom of the ocean — about 200 feet. It tracks the temperature and other characteristics of the water at every depth, and it syncs the data to an iPad on board. …

” ‘I’m just happy to do it, because I feel like I’m providing some information — even though it might not have immediate effect on my boat, but in long-term trends in the fishery and how it might influence policy or regulations,’ Sweitzer says. …’

” The settlers — the tiny little ones that are four days old that have reached the bottom — there is a temperature at which they will not survive … and there are temperatures at which we have an influx of fish. Black sea bass used to be primarily a mid-Atlantic fish. And now … the black sea bass are down there gobbling up these little lobsters that don’t have much of a chance to make it in the first place.’ ”

Read how other fishermen are noticing ocean changes before scientists do and reporting back, here.

We have a friend who sets lobster pots off New Shoreham, Rhode Island. His catch has gone down steadily over the past few years, so I know there is a problem.

Photo: Mark Degon/WBUR
Lobsterman Mark Sweitzer works out of Point Judith, Rhode Island.

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The tail of the hurricane socked us pretty hard on the Glorious Fourth, so the parade, the fire-police-and-rescue steak fry, and the fireworks were put off until the 5th.

Makes me wonder about how people felt on the 5th in 1776, realizing that they were in for it now. That it might not work.

The theme of this year’s parade was children’s books. There were at least two Cat In the Hat floats and two very differently conceived Hungry Caterpillar entries. I managed to to snap the Little Toot float — it’s always good to have a boat in an island parade.

This was Erik’s first Independence Day parade since he became a citizen, and the first that our two-year-old grandson really got into. He will need to brush his teeth especially well tonight. Only very sticky candy like Tootsie Rolls seemed to be tossed to the crowd.











































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Here’s what I did on my day off from work.

First I went with Erik and my husband to see my middle grandchild take a swimming class. The class is held at an assisted-living facility, and Erik thinks it’s ideal because they keep the water warm, something babies appreciate as much as old folks.

Along the side of the pool is a long window that gives a view of the Seekonk River through the trees.

Then we went to watch Erik become a citizen. I have been to one other naturalization ceremony, which I blogged about here, and I feel qualified to say that they are moving. Today we had 32 new citizens from 19 countries.

The administrator who delivered the citizenship oath was surprised that there were two Swedes, unusual in Rhode Island. One was Erik. The other, an acquaintance as of today, may come with his family to tomorrow’s Santa Lucia at the home of a Swedish friend Suzanne met through the baby music class.




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I have always wanted to attend a citizenship ceremony. It turns out the Boston branch of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services performs them every week at historic Faneuil Hall, which was a witness to some of the first rumblings of the American Revolution. It’s an imposing place for a great event.

There were 376 immigrants from 79 countries today (Belarus, Egypt, Sweden, and 76 others). It was moving to think about those 376 people wanting to be citizens and also to think about the United States as a place that can mean hope and opportunity. I did find myself wondering whether some of the new Americans were feeling a little sad, especially refugees and the elderly, who might be thinking about the way their homeland used to be — or could have been.

I saw Ione lining up outside. She looked happy and beautiful. Inside, I was surprised to observe a man I knew through my work also becoming a citizen.

The first announcement made me chuckle:”Is there anyone on the floor who speaks Russian?”

As things got underway, the supervisor from the Boston office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services explained that the order of activities related to the different color packets given out to organize the applicants. (He referred to one kind of packet as “skin-colored,” which considering his experience and the broad spectrum of skin colors in the room, seemed odd.) Staff conducted people efficiently along tables where their papers got checked. Then the judge entered.

When the judge entered, the hall became a courtroom. Becoming a citizen is a judicial process, we were told. A young man sang the national anthem. The judge started out lightheartedly by reading the list of 79 countries, making comments about his visits to a particular country or about the country’s soccer status. (I guess “football” is an international language.)

In the solemn part, everyone took an oath of loyalty to the United States. As the complicated phrases were read aloud, the applicants held up their right hands and repeated the historical words about rejecting monarchs and potentates and serving in the military if required by law.

Finally, the judge asked the small citizen daughter of one new American to lead everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance. It was hard to speak. A wonderful moment.

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