Like many people I think I have always taken my citizenship for granted. I was born into it and I never really gave it much thought until moving abroad and having to apply for residency and work permits. Each time our permits were up we could have been asked to leave the country which was scary when our lives meant being in that place at that time. For so many the story of arrival in the U.S. means navigating a confusing and sometimes intimidating process to gain a Green Card and then citizenship. It means they are guaranteed to be able to stay and live the life they have made here.
One of the many important tasks World Relief does is host citizenship clinics where people are able to apply to become citizens of the U.S. The line was out the door of the hosting church when I arrived a few minutes later than I would have liked juggling all my gear and squeezing past people and families holding their worn folders of documents in their hands. Only the first 100 would be able to complete the clinic that day so arriving early was a must. There were English language competency tests, legal questions (that meant I had to photograph from a distance because of their sensitive nature), identification photos to be taken, fees to be paid, and waiting. Lots of waiting. As I met people in line and held babies and discussed where they were from I also captured small glimpses into this stop on the process of becoming an American citizen. People in attendance were from far flung places like Pakistan, Bhutan, Rwanda, India, Iraq, and Cambodia and places closer to home like the Dominican Republic and Mexico. Some had been in the states for a few years and some for nearing 20 years. Some arrived and were welcomed and greeted by family already making a life here and some came alone and had to forge new networks without any insiders to guide them. World Relief provides a network to help launch people into their lives in the U.S and the many services they partner with clients to provide are essential. The volunteers were amazing at translating, explaining, and helping the clients understand the process. It is awesome to see so many people volunteering their time and gifts to serve and welcome people. I was grateful to help capture this day in partnership with World Relief to help them tell the story of so many that are seeking to make America their home.