By Katia Protsenko

As a junior in high school, I was ecstatic about getting to leave school early. Granted, it was just to wait in line outside the San Jose Civic Auditorium (where, interestingly enough, I had my junior high graduation) with thousands of other naturalized immigrants, all of us excited to finally become citizens.

Among the crowd waiting to become citizens, there were just as many vendors near the Civic Auditorium, selling red and blue frames for citizenship certificates. I highly doubt these vendors were legal residents.

How long did it take us to get here, standing in this line, on an abnormally warm day in early spring? For my mom and me, it took 11 years. After four years of losing sleep over the renewals of her work visa, my mom got lucky — she won the green card lottery (yes, such a thing exists).

A breezy five years later, she applied for citizenship. Since my mom was going through a divorce when her application was processed, she had to re-submit everything because the “married” box had to be unchecked. Two years after our first application was submitted, having passed the verbal citizenship exam, my mom and I said the Pledge of Allegiance supposedly for the first time (it was for my mom, but public education had ingrained the pledge early on for me).