Path to Citizenship

DREAM, BELIEVE, ACHIEVE….For me, these three words perfectly capture the essence of all that is America. Land of Opportunity/Land of the Free captivating similar world travelers for generations; be it past, present or future. One of the planet’s most charitable; full of empathetic hearts and open arms. It remains a country of endless possibilities of Life goals to strive towards, second chances, a multitude of freedoms, vast and beautiful open terrain…I could go on forever, but you get the gist. Millions of desperate souls from around the globe would give anything to get here, which makes us so incredibly Fortunate to call the USA Home!

My own Path to America began as a young girl in 1970s Dublin, Ireland where I fell in Love with everything American. Even on an old rabbit-eared, black and white TV, shows such as The Brady Bunch, The Waltons, Columbo and many others became part of a future Dream that I hope to someday realize. Mary Tyler Moore was the epitome of making it happen…

For twelve long years, from 1981 to 1993, I traveled/lived in six European countries, all the while adjusting (not always successfully) to a variety of cultures and customs. With each new challenge, kindness could often be found during times of need. However, I never lost my drive to get to America.

In October, 1993, with a brand new beloved fiance (USAF) and on a ninety-day visa, we headed to the INS (Immigration & Naturalization Service/now known as ICE) office in downtown LA. Thus would commence the arduous 5-year process of becoming a US citizen. Once inside, the whole area encompassed long lines of immigrants like me. So many people hungry for US residency in one place! The paperwork, photos and forms soon became a lengthy process with many return visits to that familiar building. Within a few months, my Green Card arrived in the mail (although not green at all) and I happily began to seek work.

With a move to Colorado Springs in the summer of 1995, the process continued with visits/paperwork at the Denver INS branch. In year four, I was advised to study 100 questions/answers on US History and Civics, studying diligently each and every day. A few months later, testing took place; answering a total of 13 questions out of 100 with a requirement of seven correct answers. Sitting nervously in front of a stern-looking official who peppered me with questions like a Congressional hearing, I promptly passed with flying colors.  In quick succession, a brief oral and written exam took place ensuring I could correctly comprehend/converse in English. The paperwork, lines, studying etc. was finally over.  Next up would come the date of the swearing in ceremony, which I awaited with sweet anticipation.

An official letter promptly arrived in the mail, indicating a 9:00 am start for Saturday, September 26th, 1998. Arriving an hour early, I took my place in the second row along with a few dozen other citizens from all corners of the world. Each one of us was presented with a small American flag. I proudly held mine, along with the larger one that I had just purchased a few days before. 

With butterflies in our stomachs, the long-awaited ceremony soon commenced. In excited unison, there was a resounding chorus of “YES” on pledging allegiance to the flag and defending our new native land.  “O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light…and the home of the BRAVE” rang out just before we were pronounced US CITIZENS. As the room erupted into applause, there were excited hugs all around. We had finally made it!

The Special day is precious to me, and will remain so until the day of my passing. This great country was founded on these principles: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and women) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” -Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

Exiting the building on a sunny fall Denver morning, my toddler son, Ryan gazed up innocently and asked: “You American now Mommy?” With tears of joy streaming down my cheeks, I gratefully responded, “Yes honey, I SURE AM!!

Ann Doolan-Fox, Colorado Springs, CO

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