77-Year-Old Syrian Native Tells Immigration Officer She “Could Cook” for the US if Necessary

Client Story

Anna is a delightfully feisty 77-year-old native of Syria.  She left her homeland when she was seven, and considers the United States her country.  Anna’s social worker brought Anna to a clinic for help applying to become a citizen of the United States.  Anna had applied earlier, but had not passed the reading, writing, and civics tests.  Anna is unable to read or write in any language; she considers English to be her strongest language.

Because of her age and the fact that Anna has had a green card for over 20 years, she was able to waive the requirements that she read and write.  Her civics questions were limited to 20.  Although that was certainly helpful, her social worker said, “But she cannot read the questions to study!” and promptly started working with Anna on the questions and answers.

Anna was nervous before the interview last week.  She greeted the attorney in the waiting area with the words, “Pray for me please; it is in God’s hands now.”  Anna aced the civics questions, and the Officer then turned to reviewing the application.

The final part of a naturalization interview is a set of questions designed to be sure the applicant understands the Oath of Allegiance that she will take when she is sworn in as a naturalized citizen.  The first question was, “Do you support the Constitution and form of government of the United States?” She responded, “Of course.”

The fourth question was, “If the law requires it, are you willing to bear arms on behalf of the United States?”  Anna asked the Immigration Officer “What do you mean?”  The Officer rephrased her question: “Are you willing to fight for the United States if it needs you?”  Anna was silent a moment.  We all were silent, considering  the image of this well-coifed 77-year-old woman on the front lines.  Then Anna spoke up,  “If I am young, I will.”  After a brief pause she added, “but I could cook.”

We all laughed.  The Officer quickly assured Anna that she would have to fight “only if the law requires it,” and that her cooking might be a form of “noncombatant services,”  which was the fifth question.

Anna is now patiently awaiting the notice setting the date for her oath ceremony.  She is pleased that she passed the test and that she finally will be a citizen of the country in which she resides.

 

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The mission of Just Neighbors is to provide immigration legal services to low-income immigrants and refugees in Virginia, especially those who are most vulnerable. We also seek to foster enriching experiences that enhance awareness and mutual understanding among our clients, volunteers, staff and community.

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