Nov 012009

Some of you will know that Lay’s been through a two and one-half year experience trying to get naturalized. Of course he had permanent status, and has lived here since he was 2 years old. In fact, he’s never been back to Laos. So it was past time to go ahead and get this over with, but little did we know what an ordeal it would be.

USCIS LogoU.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the Department of Homeland Stupidity (ah, Security, I think I mean) responsible for processing these applications. In the course of the process we dealt with canceled appointments (on their part) that took months to reschedule, and the re-submission of certified documents that had already been submitted. As a person who often consults with organizations on their business processes, this had to be one of the most inefficient processes I’ve encountered. I could go on for days about that, but I’ll save that for a letter to my representatives in Congress.

I have no clue why we pay to man a customer service call center for this Agency. you call there and get absolutely no usable information. All they can ever tell you is that your application is “in-process,” and to call the local office. Calling there only gets you a rude local agent who also has no information to share.

But finally the letter arrived to show up this past Wednesday at the Convention Center for a Naturalization Ceremony. Lay’s parents and I attended with him. 468 people were naturalized at this afternoon ceremony, and one of the applicants was 88 years old. It appears there was another ceremony that morning, so it was a big swearing-in. Many people were clearly excited and proud.

I admit to being taken aback a little that some of them were waving the flags of their home countries, and the host asked people to stand as their countries of origin were called out, and this turned into a shouting and applause contest to see which country could respond loudest. I’m all for being proud of one’s heritage, but when taking an oath to renounce one’s citizenship in their home country, and swear allegiance to the U.S., maybe it would be best to not be showing quite so much national pride. Of course this was all encouraged by the host of the event, and there is where my real issue lays.

I expected a dignified, respectful ceremony. Unfortunately, the local agent who was serving as the Master of Ceremonies tried to turn it into some kind of big party within the swearing-in. I am all for the people who wanted to celebrate doing so after the ceremony, but I felt this part of the process should a lot more dignified.

First, he thought he was really funny, and whooped and hollered making it more like a high school pep rally. As he got the events started, he just started talking without calling down the conversation across the large room, so no one ever felt it important to be quiet and listen to him for the rest of the event, and he did offer information and instructions for some important things like Passports and such.    

With all the beautiful patriotic anthems, the song they played was that horrible “God Bless the USA.” If you want to extend that sentiment, how about just the original “God Bless America?” How about America The Beautiful. There were just many songs that would have been more appropriate.

I know this guy meant well, and I’ll just bet that in the local office he’s the guy who always volunteers for this duty, and everyone else is happy to let him handle it. He just doesn’t know how to get control of the room, and maintain some dignity.

I truly wanted to come away inspired and feeling good about what we’d gone through to get there. I left profoundly disappointed, once again, with USCIS and how they handled what should have been a serious and dignified ceremony. In all honesty, I really can’t say enough “bad” about how poorly this agency operated throughout the whole process.

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