When I was eleven, I found my grandma’s green card sitting on her dresser. It looked like a driver’s license except it said “Resident Alien” across the top. I ran excitedly to my parents, half-intrigued, half-freaked out: was I actually 3/4 Chinese and 1/4 extraterrestrial? They had a good laugh. In her late eighties, my grandma actually became a US citizen. She told my dad that she wanted to be a citizen of the country that had welcomed her as a grieving 64 year-old widow. If you are over 55 and have lived in the US for over 15 years, you can take the Naturalization test in your native tongue with a translator. One night, I overheard my grandma reviewing her study materials. She kept repeating “Bill Kuh-Linton” and “San Quai Man Tou” (my dad had taught her to say “three pieces of steamed buns” –which sounds remarkably similar to “Sacramento”– in response to “What is the state capital of California?”). It was one of the most touching things I have ever seen.
This weekend, I was talking to my new friend, O, and discovered he does not have a green card. He has lived in this country for almost 20 years, attended college here, works here, contributes to taxes and his community here. I was shocked. The average Chinese waiter’s 2nd cousin thrice-removed who doesn’t speak English has a green card. Apparently, it is more difficult when you come from a European country and don’t have an extended family or job that will agree to be your sponsor. Curious about this process that has allowed me to be a US citizen (I was born here, but my parents emigrated as students in the 1960s), I looked up the government website. And I found this little gem above. An Alien with Extraordinary Abilities? Like if you have frickin’ laser beams shooting out of your head? I don’t know about these criteria. Obama, I think we need some revisions here.