From Alien to Citizen

Mar 18, 2013

Immigration officials say there is an often an increase in the number of people applying for U.S. citizenship before a presidential election.

Former Under the Sun producer Ruth Morris is one of those immigrants who wants to become a citizen. For three years, Morris covered South Florida immigration, a beat that can earn you a slew of angry emails.  It can also make you cynical, according to Morris. Some of her readers got angry when she used the term “undocumented workers.” They preferred “illegal aliens.”


Morris used to be an alien – a permanent resident alien. She had a green card ever since her parents immigrated to the United States 40 years ago from England. They weren’t fleeing from war or famine. They came for the adventure.

The one part of the immigration process she couldn’t be cynical about was the naturalization ceremony. The first one she covered was in South Beach. The emcee asked the aliens to stand up when their country was called. They remained standing while other countries were called. Your imagination could run wild with all of the stories in the room. How did these people get here? What did they leave behind? At the end of the ceremony, Morris found herself moved to tears by the ceremony.

These days, Morris says,  it’s easy to be skeptical about the future of the United States.  If this is getting to you, Morris recommends you go to a naturalization ceremony and hang out with a few aliens. As for Morris, she applied for citizenship and went to the ceremony alone. Her U.S. passport was delivered to her in China, where she now lives.

Becoming a citizen is one of the experiences considered part of the traditional “American dream.”  NPR recently started a series, American Dreams: Then and Now, examining the belief that you can make it here if you work hard, no matter where you come from. Is this still true? Has the American Dream changed? What is your American Dream? Share your thoughts with us here.