My Journey to Living in a First World Democracy

Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

I’ve lived in this country for nearly 21 years. Except for a brief return to my Trinidad home for three years, the first 10 years were spent as a student — first as an undergraduate and then a graduate student. The next six years were spent in foreign worker status (on an H-1B visa if you’re familiar with U.S. immigration jargon) until I earned my permanent residency status (green card) in 2016.

But permanent residency status is temporary — it only lasts for 10 years. So technically, I have temporary permanent residency status, an oxymoron made possible by the complex, tenuous U.S. immigration system.

This year, I will be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship which, among other perks, will give me the right to vote and the peace of mind in knowing that my right to live in this country will never expire. If I choose not to apply for citizenship, I can instead renew my permanent residency status by applying every 10 years.

In addition to completing a 20-page application and passing a U.S. civics test (which involves learning the answers to 128 questions, of which only 10 will be asked during the oral exam), the cost to apply for citizenship is nearly $1,000. There is no guarantee that my application will be granted.

But I’ve lived in this country for nearly 21 years, which is more than half the amount of time I’ve been alive. The U.S. is my home just as much as Trinidad is. And although I miss roti, callaloo and liming, my roots are more deeply planted here in the U.S.

So I should apply for citizenship, right? Considering my 20-year journey, including the H-1B application process and the gut-wrenching, multi-step, multi-year permanent residency process (the story of which will be told another time), obtaining citizenship in the place I call home seems to be the logical next step.

But after I watched Trump supporters mob the U.S. Capitol, I’m not so sure.

After reading on CNN that the breach “was met with less police force than many of the Black Lives Matter protests that rolled across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police officers last year,” I’m not so sure.

When I read Makia Green’s Facebook post, I became hurt all over again and I’m forced to relive the trauma of racism.

Makia Green is a liberation organizer with Black Lives Matter DC and the DC Working Families Party.

“There is nothing like watching the same police force that shot you with the rubber bullets and pepper-sprayed children protesting for BLM, allow Trump supporters to run wild in the city, then Federal police who brutalized DC activists let these same people storm the Capitol building. The irony, the hypocrisy, and the trauma,” Makia’s post reads.

Yeah, I’m not so sure anymore. In fact, I’m scared.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

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Dionne Gray

Dionne Gray

I’m a storyteller who helps organizations communicate with employees. As a resume writer, I help people tell the story of who they are.