Rep. Jackie Speier hosts ‘A Pathway to Citizenship’


Kylie Lin

Rep. Jackie Speier commends the audience of “A Pathway to Citizenship” for attending the workshop.

Kylie Lin, Scotlight Editor-in-Chief

You know what makes this country so great?”

U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier posed this question on Sept. 23 at the San Mateo City Hall at the beginning of her workshop called “A Pathway to Citizenship.” Speier hosted the event with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to help residents in San Mateo County who hope to become naturalized citizens.

“Look at the diversity in this room. That’s what makes this country great,” said Speier.

According to Speier, nine million individuals in the U.S. are eligible to become naturalized citizens. However, only 10 percent of these residents actually apply for the citizenship process each year.

One obstacle that prevents residents from applying is the intricacy of the citizenship process itself. In addition to meeting a set of requirements to be eligible for naturalized citizenship, one must take a test and wait for six to 10 months before hearing whether they have been accepted or not.

History teacher David Gomez, while unable to attend the event, believes that those who were present could gain valuable insight from listening to a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“If I could go, I would maybe learn from someone who is on the front lines of [managing the naturalization system],” said Gomez. “As a member of the House, [Speier] is working with people that are, on a national level, trying to make changes and hopefully make progress on the citizenship process.”

After Speier’s speech, USCIS District Congressional Lead Susan Siao gave an informational presentation from the USCIS website. She was soon joined by USCIS Congressional Liason Anne Bloomberg, and together they conducted a mock interview demonstrating how residents would apply to become citizens.

Merriweather Fields, a junior, supported the workshop held by Speier and the USCIS; she believes that residents deserve to become U.S. citizens so long as they abide by the law.

“In my opinion, if people define themselves by ‘American’ — saying ‘I am American, I am from the U.S., I live in the U.S.’ — they should get at least a fair chance of getting citizenship,” said Fields. “It’s what they want to be defined by, and if we ever do become divided, everyone is still American no matter where they’re from.”

While Speier had to leave the workshop early, her initial words left a lasting impression on an audience hopeful to fully integrate themselves into the American nation.

“You will be a fully shrined person in this country. When you look up at that American flag, you can say: ‘That belongs to me, and we are all one, together,'” said Speier.

The full workshop, “A Pathway to Citizenship,” can be viewed on Speier’s Facebook page.