Kamar Returns to School
Kamar is no stranger to the ELC. She first came to study English in 2011, shortly after arriving in Minnesota with refugee status from Somalia. Then, many years later, Kamar returned to school because she had a new goal—to become a United States citizen. She knew the ELC could help her do it.
The process to become a citizen is long. Individuals must maintain “green card” status as permanent residents for at least five years before they can even apply. Then, after submitting paperwork and waiting for processing, they must pass the citizenship test. This test contains questions on U.S. history and government and can be especially stressful for English learners because (with few exceptions) it must be done in English. Many students, including Kamar, receive help studying through the ELC’s citizenship classes.
The day Kamar took her test, she says she was nervous but “SO HAPPY!” when she found out she passed. She couldn’t stop smiling. Then, later, she joined hundreds of other new citizens at the naturalization ceremony. She says, “There was a big group in the room, from all countries. There were a lot [of people] from Somalia. Everyone was hugging each other, even strangers. The Somalis were singing a song that went, ‘Thank you, government!’”
“It’s good because I can have my own freedom. I’m not trapped anymore. I won’t have any issues with the government now. I am a legal citizen. The stress is gone.”
Citizenship Means Happiness and Freedom
For Kamar, citizenship means happiness and freedom. She no longer has to worry about her immigration status being revoked. She’s also free to travel and see new places. “It’s good because I can have my own freedom. I’m not trapped anymore. I won’t have any issues with the government now. I am a legal citizen. The stress is gone.”
Through the process, Kamar says she’s learned more about equality and respect for others. She explains, “[The judge] told us at the ceremony, new citizens are the same as old citizens. No one is better than another person.” She’s proud to know that she holds the same rights and responsibilities as U.S. born citizens.
Now that Kamar has her citizenship, she’s excited to travel internationally and already has a very special trip planned. She’ll be making a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia to go to Hajj or Mecca, the holiest city for Muslims. While there, she’ll pray and visit the grave of the Prophet Mohamed. She’s also excited to sleep in a hotel and eat good food!
From application to ceremony, the entire process took Kamar about a year. For others who want to begin, she would tell them, “Becoming a citizen isn’t easy. You will have to study. It’s like a job. The interview is very stressful, but when they give you a letter saying that you passed – oh, it is indescribable!”
“Becoming a citizen isn’t easy. You will have to study. It’s like a job. The interview is very stressful, but when they give you a letter saying that you passed – oh, it is indescribable!”