I am Not Simply “Documented”: New Language for an Old Problem: by Kira Davis for IJ Review


by Kira Davis for IJReview

I am an immigrant. I was born in Canada to a Canadian mother and an American father. I made my first trip to America at the age of 10. At the age of 13 my father secured for me a Social Security number. When I was 18 I came to school here in America on a student visa. When I was 22 a very kind customs agent (yes, they exist!) informed me that my visa and SS number were no longer enough to help me pass over the borders. It was time to declare my citizenship and get a passport. I figured this would be easy, considering my father is American and I had been living and working in the country for quite some time. Far from it. To my shock the process (even for someone with an American parent) was excruciatingly long and unbelievably expensive. For years I tried to navigate the immigration red tape circus alone. I’d fill out one form, pay $500 for “processing” and wait 6 months only to receive word that I needed to fill out forms A, B and X before I could submit form C. They all came with a processing fee. I didn’t leave the U.S. for 7 years. I couldn’t predict the movements of my application process or which border agents would be unsatisfied with my U.S. license and Canadian birth certificate and which would let it pass. Then came 9/11 and everything changed. I didn’t want to wait any longer. By that time I was married with a child and we were a little more financially stable than I’d been in the past. My husband agreed that we should hire a lawyer. For a couple of thousand more dollars I was finally able to get what I needed to say I was an American. In total the process took 12 years and nearly $10,000.



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