The Third of July

It’s Monday, July 3rd, but I’m not busy making Fourth of July plans—pool parties, barbecues, family & friends. Instead, the day before Americans turn out en masse to celebrate the country, I spend the morning in a waiting room with new American immigrants.

It’s silent, and the chairs are hard.

We, the American citizens and permanent residents — the other halves — sit out here as one by one our loved ones are called. We’re separated by a glass door. There are teenagers, college students helping their parents fill out forms. Parents escorting their young children. Entire families applying together.

More often than not, the children are the citizens. The parents want to join them here. It’s summer. There are a lot of kids being toted along. “Yes, you can bring the child in with you.” The workers are kind. It’s a relief. We’ve all dealt with the opposite too often on this journey.

I watch one tiny girl go in, grabbing the strap of her mother’s purse for security. We’ve already been through metal detectors. This is a different kind of security. Her eyes round, she looks around, to the side of the room I can’t see for the frosted glass. What’s back there? I wonder. Whatever she sees, her eyes relax, and I feel myself relax.

Today, it’s just fingerprints and photos. One tiny step in the long, expensive process that is applying for permanent residency in the United States of America. Next time we’re in this building will be harder.

“Fingerprints or interviews?” the security guard had asked when he caught us looking at the building map in the lobby. It’s the interview I’m scared of. Speaking so openly of our life with a stranger. I’m not an outgoing person. And I already know the immense strain of handing your fate over to a bored government employee.

Some people are up there, on the third floor, doing just that as I fidget down here, waiting. They’re running fifteen minutes behind, but even that is familiar, comfortable. It doesn’t calm my nerves any, but I know our journey is easy compared to others’.

I’ll probably go to the parties today. Enjoy my family and friends. But my mind still wanders in the quiet moments. I wonder what that little girl is doing for the Fourth. Is her mom nervous about her interview?

This Fourth of July, please remember those Americans sitting in a stuffy waiting room for a loved one to get fingerprinted — and send your good vibes to all those American hopefuls.

Sincerely Annie

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