I remember the INS agents sitting at our breakfast table and telling my mother and I that we had two choices. One was that we could be deported to Canada at U.S. government expense, as my father had been. That choice came with the penalty of not being able to return to the U.S. for five years. The other choice was to return to Canada by our own means. If we did that, we could apply to come back in one year. My mother and I chose the latter. We left for Canada on a Greyhound bus in June 1954. In September 1955, mother and I were back in California with permanent residence papers. I did what was required of all aliens until 1980, and reported my address annually, in January, to the INS.
In December 1965, while still a Canadian citizen, I was drafted into the U.S. Army. I trained for nine months at Fort Lewis, and then did a one-year combat tour in Vietnam. I received an honorable discharge. I was proud of my service then, as I am proud of it today.
Shortly after my discharge from the Army I contacted the INS and inquired about obtaining citizenship. For whatever the reason, when the INS learned that I was a Vietnam veteran, I was treated with total disrespect and disdain. After that experience I did not look into citizenship again for 30 years.
I began the citizenship process on Aug. 17, 1998. It started with filling out what seemed like a ton of paperwork. In the almost three years that I waited to be sworn in, I was required three different times to report to an INS office in Van Nuys, where I spent the better part of a day, with several hundred other people, just to update my fingerprints. Is that security, or what?