I’ve lived in the U.S. for 23 years, but I didn’t vote in this election. I’m a green card holder, and I was planning to apply for citizenship this year. The naturalization process takes a considerable amount of time (six months at minimum, but often much longer), so by the time I was able to apply, the turnaround time wouldn’t have allowed me to vote in this election. Rather than submitting my application anyway, I decided to wait and ensure the Election Day results went the way I wanted. I joked with my family that I’d submit my citizenship application on Nov. 9, when I knew it was safe.
Well, Nov. 9 has come and passed. And I don’t know that it’s safe. Now that Donald Trump is the President-elect, I’m faced with the question: do I still want to become a citizen of the United States of America?
I was born in Canada, and I came to the U.S. when I was 2. I currently hold a Canadian passport, and I am working on becoming an Overseas Citizen of India (my mother was born in India and a lot of my family still lives there). I would never relinquish my Canadian passport, a decision I made long before Canadian citizenship became a hot commodity.
On the night of the election, the Canadian immigration website crashed, likely a result of frantic voters typing “how to move to Canada” into Google. As someone who has (willingly) been the butt of Canadian jokes for 20 or so years, you’d think I’d feel at least a twinge of validation that people are now desperately flocking to my birth country. I don’t. It just feels overwhelming and disheartening
I love living in the U.S. I was raised in this country. I was educated—kindergarten through college—in the U.S. When people ask me where I’m from, I don’t say Canada or India; I say I’m from Boston. I am (probably) here to stay. As much as moving back to Montreal has crossed my mind lately, most of the people I love are in this country, including my immediate family, my boyfriend and my closest friends.
If I’m going to stay, if I’m invested in the U.S. political system, and if I’m eligible to become a citizen (because I’ve now held a green card for five years), it’s time to exercise that privilege. I know what it’s like to enter the green card lottery year after year, be a slave to my visa, and become an all-too-regular face at my local immigration office. It’s frustrating, time-consuming and often degrading. I’ve finally come far enough to qualify for citizenship, which is a privilege I am incredibly fortunate to have, and one that I know millions of immigrants are fighting for.
But if I apply for American citizenship tomorrow, I will end up saying the naturalization Oath of Allegiance under President Trump. I will attend my oath ceremony in a room filled with framed photos of our 45th president—a man who has faced multiple sexual assault accusations and threatened to deport millions of immigrants.
And to me, that is heartbreaking. Because on a night that I thought would boost our shared faith in this country, my trust and hope were broken instead.
There is now a large part of me that feels like I should wait until our President-elect is out of office before I apply to become a citizen. But I think it’s more important that I work hard to become an American so I can participate in the next election.
This is not how I wanted to feel when I submitted my naturalization application. I planned to feel energized and hopeful, instead of terrified. I wanted to submit my application with pride, instead of in a hurry because I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen to immigration laws in this country.
This President-elect has verbalized his intentions to make strict immigration crackdowns. Conceivably, in the Trump era, I could be stopped in the street as a non-white person and asked to produce proof of residency. As much as I detest that part of my hurry to apply for citizenship will be because it may get more challenging after Jan. 20, that is the reality we are now facing. I feel a sense of urgency to become a citizen, which I think I’ve always felt, but I also feel something new: dread.