by Susan Fried
In the midst of continued protests and uncertainty over the Trump administration’s policies around immigration and an unprecedented backlog of pending citizen applications, 498 people from 84 countries became United States citizens at the annual Fourth of July Naturalization Ceremony at Seattle Center.
The 34th-annual event was the culmination of years of preparation and waiting for the people being sworn in as U.S. citizens. In addition to being green card holders for at least five years before filing their $725 naturalization forms, they had to be 18 years or older and had to be able to write, speak, and understand English. They must also have an understanding of U.S. government and history.
Despite these obstacles, about 14,000 people across the country were naturalized this year. Mirsad Husovic, who emigrated from Bosnia said that becoming a citizen on July 4 had special significance.
“I am so proud, especially today, it is like a dream come true,” Husovic said.
Catherine Seaver, of Canada, said that many people had asked her why she wanted to become an American citizen.
“I am thrilled to become an American and be able to vote. My family is here, my children are here, and so it’s an incredible privilege,” she said.
Still, she expressed concern about the immigration process.
“This took at least three times as long as it normally does to become naturalized,” Seaver said. It usually takes three to six months. It’s taken a year and a half.”
“It feels so tenuous for people, it’s terrifying. I can pass because I am white, straight, speak English, am middle class, so I can pass as what it supposedly means to be an American right now,” Seaver continued. “I feel very privileged to be able to get my citizenship knowing so many people desperately want it and should have it.”
As concern over the Trump administration’s immigration policies grows, the City of Seattle’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs announced that it is partnering with several Immigrant Rights organizations to launch the “Campaign to Tear Down the Second Wall” and relaunch the Naturalize NOW campaign. The campaigns are meant to take a stand against the Trump administration’s recent actions against groups of immigrants, and to try to alleviate the backlog of citizenship applications.
The application backlog has increased from 380,639 applications in 2015 to 729,400 in 2018. According to a City of Seattle press release, if people keep applying for citizenship at the current rate, “it would take USCIS over 25 years to get back down to the Obama administration’s backlog level of 380,639 applications in 2015, not taking into account new applications.”
All photographs by Susan Fried.