Have you ever been in a situation that infuriated you so much that, although you would never actually do it, steered your mind towards thoughts of pure evil to translate your rage into concrete action? Towards doing something stupid, something you know would get you in trouble, but would at least release that fury and anxiety within, you so you could feel a little better?
Such as spray-painting “Fuck the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services!” all over the walls of their Oakland Park, Florida facility?
Let me explain, and but first let me apologize. You’re going to hear a lot of “Boo hoo! Woe is me!”in the following paragraphs. I beg you to indulge me, put yourself in my shoes, and see if you would feel any different.
My wife recently took her oath of citizenship, but there wasn’t enough “room” in the auditorium for my sons and me to witness it. She cried during the entire ceremony because of this, we watched it outside on a crappy TV with totally inaudible audio, and she even stood up in protest at one point to voice her disgust at the whole situation. (More on this below, and I was never so proud of her in my life.)
Several weeks earlier, she had passed her citizenship test. This involved studying 100 questions with the requirement to verbally answer 6 out of 10 random questions correctly. Get five wrong, and you start the whole naturalization procedure all over again! She nailed the first six in a row, so there was no reason to be asked the following four questions. Welcome to America, baby! You’re a citizen now!
We received a letter not long after telling us to return for her oath of citizenship on April 19th at 10:30am. She, my sons and I arrived at 9:30am. (Who wants to be late for this!?) I’m all decked out in my American Flag attire and all excited about what should be a very emotional day in our lives. We’re the first ones there in the main waiting room (the first)…she’s separated from us an oathtaker (us guests go to the other side of the room)…and all new citizens are then ushered into the auditorium, with us guests waiting to be allowed entry later.
Except there’s no system as to how guests are allowed entry. No restrictions on how many guests each new citizen can bring. No first come first served to get in. No control at all.
So, one person can have 20 guests (family members, the family grocer, the family babysitter, the family drug dealer), and with another oathtaker, no guests get in at all (like us), because the room is full. It was just a matter of pushing yourself to the front of the crowd, or being seated at the right place at the right time when they finally called guests to line up, so it would be easier for you to push yourself to the front of the crowd and get in.
What the hell is going on here? It looked exactly like a Central American caravan storming the Mexico-U.S. Border!
One would think that this Federal office would know what they’re doing when it comes to controlling who gets in and who doesn’t (Hey, the USCIS is even run under the auspices of Homeland Security!), but they obviously don’t. So my sons and I weren’t in the auditorium to witness it.
I later learned that while the Master of Ceremonies was telling new citizens what a special day this was for them, a day to cherish and share and always remember with your loved ones, my wife stood up and yelled at this shmuck, tears streaming down her face:
“Really!? My family can’t even get in! And I’ve been waiting for this day for years!”
She claimed that as a new citizen, she was just exercising her right to protest. (I still tear up when I think about her doing this. Now that’s America!)
While still in the waiting room, I stormed out to the car in disgust, and punched the wall a few times on my way out right in front of the security officers there. What were they going to do, deport me? The worst they could do is deport me from Florida to Brooklyn, where I was born.
However, even they understood the situation and didn’t do a thing in reaction to my outburst. They allowed me to vent. They had obviously seen this before, many times, seen many disgusted and disappointed people unable to witness these special moments because this office was so screwed up as to have no system and control over their naturalization ceremonies whatsoever.
The invitation letter could have indicated a maximum number of allowable guests. Guests could have been allowed in on a first come, first in basis. (Maybe they should take some lessons from any supermarket’s deli counter. Take a number!) Or perhaps they could schedule these events more frequently, with less new immigrants each, to fit all the people who come eager to witness this damn ceremony in the first place!
So to the Oakland Park, Florida office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, specifically, the Director of this office:
I’m not done with this yet. You robbed our family of the most cherished American moment imaginable. This will never be forgotten. Writing this is my first step at expressing my disdain, disappointment and disgust with you.
The next step is hitting Walmart’s spray paint aisle, but it’s certainly not the last step.