Most recent news on immigration and U.S. citizenship is not what you’d call uplifting.
Just in the last few days, we’ve learned that kids with cancer and cystic fibrosis are being kicked out of the country because the Trump administration is ending a humanitarian deferment program for immigrants getting lifesaving treatments.
Children of U.S. service members who are born and live abroad will no longer be automatically considered U.S. citizens — because really, what have their parents ever done for us?
And we’re still wondering where Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, got the gall to reimagine the Emma Lazarus sonnet inscribed on the Statue of Liberty to mean that mostly European and only immigrants who could pay their own way have ever been welcome here. What the poem really meant to say, he insisted, is, “Give me your tired, your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.” You know, the poor who aren’t that poor.
Against that backdrop, it was a particular pleasure to watch 383 people from 84 different countries take the oath of U.S. citizenship at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium on Thursday. The ballpark seemed the perfect spot for the occasion, where new citizens beamed, cried, dug into giant tubs of popcorn and repeated “Let’s go, Roy-als,” as requested by a team official.
They weren’t born on third base, as those of us who didn’t have to work for years for this moment were. And their gratitude was most humbling of all.
Abbas Altaie, a Baghdad-born 49-year-old father of four ambitious daughters, had to have been sweltering in his suit and tie in the full sun, but this was not a day for casual dress, he said.
He and his wife Ghaidaa came here seven years ago, he said, for three reasons: “Freedom, to save my family and education” for now 17-year-old Safa and 15-year-old Sama, both of whom want to become surgeons, 20-year-old Maram, who is studying pharmacology at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and 12-year-old Maryam.
Technically, Altaie’s English is not perfect, but what he said could not have been improved upon: “My family and I all consider this action today amazing. It’s a celebration! It’s abnormal!” What he saw when he looked around that stadium, he said, were people from all different cultures and countries and religions “here as human, not looking for difference, and all happy because they could be a citizen.”
Who wouldn’t love it in the United States, he asks, with “everything organizing and clear, so pretty, everything in its place.” And what he’d like to tell the rest of his now fellow Americans, he said, is this: “Thank you for your welcome, for your help, for care of my kids, especially to their teachers. You see, we got our dream now.”
Thank you, too, Mr. Altaie, for bringing us your dreams and beautiful family and for reminding us, no matter what anybody says, of all that we have to live up to.
— The Kansas City Star