The journey to citizenship
The journey to citizenship
Being a citizen of the United States is something that is all too often taken for granted. If you were born in our country, you really may not even give it a second thought. However, there are some who must undergo an arduous process in order to have the privilege of being called a citizen of the United States of America. Loga Crooker of rural West Union took up this challenge, and on Aug. 16 of this year she was granted her U.S. citizenship.
Loga’s story is one of persistence. She came to this country from Malaysia on a student visa in 1996 to attend Upper Iowa University. After graduating with a degree in business and a masters in human resources in 2001, she was able to get a one-year work-training visa. Crooker worked in Waterloo and Decorah over the next few years as an assistant manager in retail stores. She also got married in 2003 to Ron Crooker. In 2005 she applied for permanent residency, which took a long time and was somewhat costly.
“That process got delayed because the 9/11 terrorist attacks were still fresh in everyone’s mind, and the government pulled back on giving out permanent residency for a time. It also costs money to apply for and keep permanent residency,” explained Crooker.
Loga eventually achieved permanent resident status in 2005, but she wasn’t finished yet. By then she and Ron were the parents of twin boys, Davan and Nathan. As time went on, becoming a citizen was something the young mother really wanted to do and decided was in her best interest. So, in March of this year, she began preparing to achieve that goal.
“I wanted to make sure that I would never be separated from my children or my husband because I was not a citizen. That was very important to me and a strong motivation to see the process through,” related Crooker.
It wasn’t an easy process by any means. It would require Loga to complete a detailed five-page application, prepare for an interview, study for an oral test, make three trips to Des Moines, and pay a $650 fee. She also had to provide information documenting her income tax history and show that she did not have a criminal record.
“I think the most difficult part of it all was adhering to the timeline and the demands of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They were pretty specific about what you had to do and when you had to do it; if you did not comply, you could not get your citizenship,” said Crooker.
Loga persevered, however, and with the support of her family, combined with her own determination and resolve, she traveled to Cedar Rapids on Aug. 16, 2013, to be sworn in as a citizen of the United States of America. The day was made even more special by the fact that Aug. 16 is also Ron’s birthday. Now the couple had plenty to celebrate.
“It was a special day that I will always remember. There were 29 others there from 20 different countries, so it was also amazing to see all of that diversity right in here in Iowa,” recalled Crooker.
It was made even more memorable when three of Loga’s close friends were also able to attend the ceremony. Alma and Earl Aanes and A.W. Martin were all able to be in Cedar Rapids on that day, as well, to witness her oath of citizenship.
In 1940 the United States Congress created what was then called “I Am an American Day.” In 1952, President Harry Truman effectively replaced this by signing into law “Citizenship Day.” This was eventually turned into a weeklong celebration called “Constitution Week,” which was to take place Sept. 17 – 23 each year.
Finally, in 2004, Sept. 17 was officially designated as “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.” The significance of the date comes from the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787. It is a day set aside to commemorate a document that has given us liberty and an opportunity to reflect on the privilege and the responsibility of being a U.S. citizen. This is an appropriate exercise for all American citizens, whether they have become so by birth or through naturalization.
The Crookers and their two boys live just north of West Union in an old farmhouse on a small acreage. They are raising their children, tending their garden, and going about the day-to-day tasks of life just like anyone else might. They are enjoying the rights and privileges of being American citizens, which, for Loga was a difficult but very worthwhile journey.
This week, as our country recognizes Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, Americans can reflect on what it means to be a U.S. citizen, with all the rights and privileges afforded them by our country’s Constitution.