There was never a question how much pride my grandmother felt in having immigrated from Belfast, Ireland to become a citizen of the United States. We never spoke about the naturalization process, but my grandmother’s Certificate of Citizenship, dated July 6th, 1939 (secured three years before her son, and my father, flew to the Pacific to serve as a Navy pilot in defense of his country) said it all: it was on display throughout my childhood, finding its place of honor on the kitchen shelf in the Bronx, and then Queens, behind the green, porcelain teapot, shaped like a cottage, and carried to New York on the vessel, “California,” from Ireland. Also on display was my great-grandfather’s Declaration of Intent to become a citizen of the United States; as well as his letter of introduction, dated April 11th, 1913, from the owner of Dunlop, The Expert Tailor, of Belfast, Ireland, attesting to my great-grandfather’s character as a coat presser who was “a good steady workman willing and obliging, punctual and reliable in every way. He leaves us of his own accord all wages being paid.”
And so it was with great pride, and a sense of gratitude for the lawyers who had helped my family establish residency in our beloved country in the first half of the 20th century, that Liz and I greeted Dom and Jan, two deaf clients of the law center, who recently received their permanent resident cards, having won asylum. Our clients had fled from their countries because each had a well-founded fear of persecution, as did my family who had fled from Poland and Russia before the Second World War, to Leeds, England, then to Belfast and then to 408 East 10th Street in New York. Yesterday, our clients stopped by the law center, bearing permanent resident cards, smiling broadly, sharing how they have secured employment and speaking of their dreams for the future, here, in America.
It is Dom’s and Jan’s hope that someday, in the near future, they will become citizens of the United States, while reciting the Natural Oath of Allegiance which includes these words:
“I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”
The Law Center’s annual event takes place Tuesday evening, December 4th, beginning at 6:30 p.m., at the New York Athletic Club. We invite you to join us this evening where we will introduce you to several of our clients and celebrate the work of the law center.