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I Am Now an American Citizen!

CityWatch
Vol 9 Issue 2
Pub: Jan 7, 2011

I moved to America from Europe in 1996. I’ve worked, paid taxes, established my own business, served on the boards of various non-profits, participated in governmental organizations and traveled as much as I possibly could in this wonderful land called America.

I love the people I have met, I love the culture that I have experienced and I love the history I have discovered. And, I love the fact that I am now surrounded by my people, my culture, my history because after 14 years as a guest, I am now an American Citizen! I was born in Budapest, grew up in Munich, and I traveled the world before moving to Los Angeles.

When I moved to Hollywood in 2001, I met my now husband Stephen Box, who showed me around and helped me get to know the neighborhood. He got me into riding a bike to be more connected to the streets and the city. He took me on long walks through the community, the hills, downtown and various districts. He showed me gargoyles, hidden community gardens, movie shoot locations, plaques from historical landmarks, and he always had stories to tell about Los Angeles and about his personal adventures as a producer, as a businessman and as a resident, since his move to this city.

We got involved with the community, Stephen and I were cleaning up our neighborhood with friends, we planted gardens and trees, got involved with our neighborhood councils and with city politics and we met a lot of wonderful people.

Stephen took me on my first Midnight Ridazz ride that took us from Echo Park, to South LA, and to Hollywood, we got lost on bus rides, and we together ran 5Ks, 10Ks and ½ marathons. I fell in love with Los Angeles and I fell in love with this man, who was so passionate about everything that surrounded him. We both discovered LA, its neighborhoods and its people as if we were tourists, and we both made this place our home.

A home requires many responsibilities and so I applied for my citizenship last July. I filled out lots of paperwork, that inquired about everything from my past, from my political party involvements to my parents political involvement, all my travel dates since my move to the US, personal data and history. I prepared and studied American History, Civics, Political Structure of our government and I proudly passed my naturalization test on November 18th, 2010.

I was scheduled for the Naturalization Oath Ceremony for December 16th  and the day prior to the ceremony I got really nervous. I thought about what I was leaving behind and what was ahead of me. I weighed the pros and cons. I was crying for my family for they were so far from me. I wished they were here with me, in this country that guarantees them freedom and liberty! But I know that we all have to find our own way and I moved on.

The Oath Ceremony was at 8am at the Los Angeles Convention Center downtown. I kissed Stephen goodbye at the entrance of Hall C, and told him that I’ll see him as an American in a couple of hours. I lined up with 2600 men and women, most of whom were dressed celebratory, and I prepared to give up my Green Card and my status as a Permanent Resident.

People in line were quiet and avoided eye contact, perhaps filled with thought like me, thinking about their homes, both past and present. maybe they were thinking about their journey to get here or about what the future would hold. When it was my turn to drop my Green Card into the plastic bin, I hesitated for a second. “This was it. I’m not a Permanent Resident anymore. I’m becoming a Citizen.” I let go of my card and then was handed a yellow envelope with a small American flag and a letter from President Obama welcoming me to America.

We were all seated, neatly in lines and rows, and I started chatting with the people next to me. I sat next to John, who was born in South Korea. He came up from Orange County for the ceremony and was very excited. On my right was Matt from Trinidad. Next to him was a woman from Canada. I think all the world’s nations were represented in this one room on this early December morning. We could have signed a peace treaty with everybody right there.

People were asking their neighbors to take pictures and within a few minutes video cameras were running and both men and women were sniffling, caught up in the moment. We were packed into our seats, shoulders touching shoulders.

After about an hour of introductions, instructions and welcome speeches we viewed a video with President Obama welcoming us to America, watched “God Bless the USA” music video by Lee Greenwood that was specially edited for the naturalization ceremony (you can see the video here:, we stood and said the Pledge of Allegiance , and lastly the National Anthem was sung.

We got back in line to receive our Certificate of Naturalization and as people were picking up their certificate, blank faces from earlier were now filled with big grins and people acknowledged each other as if they were old friends.

I was smiling as well but something was missing for me because I thought I would “feel American” after the ceremony. As I was moving towards the exit, I passed some tables. Some were offering passport applications, some had certificate covers, and some were registering the new citizens to vote. People stood in line to get their passports before the holidays, the certificate covers were selling like bacon-wrapped hot dogs on a packed evening at the Downtown Artwalk, however the voter registration table had many empty seats.

I sat down by myself to register for the first time in my life to vote. I want to vote for my husband Stephen Box in the March 8th, 2011 Los Angeles elections and I want to have a voice in City Government.

I filled out the voter registration card carefully and meticulously. I wanted to make sure that my handwriting and my signature was clean and legible. As I filled out my birth date and my California ID card number, the tears started rolling down my face. It took me by surprise and I quickly wiped the tears away.

I tore off the proof of the registration and smiled with tears in my eyes at the woman who collected my form. She smiled back and said, “Welcome to America! Congratulations on your Citizenship!”

I stood up and walked away, feeling taller, prouder, humbled and I “felt American!” I found my home, not only with my husband, but also in the country that took me in, that accepts me as I am, where I finally can have a voice and where I can make a difference!

Thank you for having me! I’ll be a good citizen and I will, with my husband, defend the Constitution and will participate in every City and Federal election, because I believe that every vote and that our participation matters. I hope you will join me!

(Enci Box works in the entertainment industry. She writes for The Casting Network and supports local theatre through her site Bitter Lemons. You can reach her via Enci@illuminateLA.com. For disclosure purposes: Enci Box is the wife of Stephen Box, a candidate for the City Council’s 4th District.)


1 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. 1

    Hello,

    My name is John and I work for US Citizenship.info: http://www.uscitizenship.info/. I\’d love to have our website on your: http://illuminatela.com/i-am-now-an-american-citizen/

    Our site provides US immigration articles, has an informative blog and much more. It would be a great resource to include with others already listed. You can never have so many resources!

    Thanks and let me know what you think.

    Look forward to hearing back from you.

    Best
    John Chacko



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