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CITIZENSHIP

We probably take our citizenship for granted, which may be natural, but it is beneficial to reflect upon it.


Joice’s father was a “naturalized citizen” of the US, having been born in a London suburb, sent to Canada with his large family as immigrants, and later moved to the US, not yet a citizen. He had gone from Canada to Detroit, Michigan to find work at Pontiac motors, met his forthcoming wife at a church, and eventually settled in Keego Harbor, a suburb of Pontiac. He prized his US citizenship highly and would willingly and proudly show off his appropriate legal papers.


Our son Kirk is a “dual citizen” of the US and Australia, married to an Australian, but born in Papua New Guinea. He has spent most of his life in Australia and PNG, with only a few years in the US. He has two passports and an obligation to file income tax reports to both countries.


Joice and I once talked about moving to Australia. We loved the country and the people, but our genetic links to the US were too great to pursue the idea seriously. We were glad to be Americans and not ashamed to say where we were born. And, because I am a Franklin, my ancestry goes far back in US history. (My father, who pursued ancestral linkages, claimed we were descended from Ben Franklin’s brother.)


Immigrants to the US, who want to become citizens, face an arduous task. The applicant must be at least 18 years old and have been a permanent resident in the US for 5 years (3 if married to a US citizen). One common step in the process is to obtain a Green Card, officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, which allows the person to live and work permanently in the US. However, a green card does not give anyone the full rights of a citizen, for example the right to vote. Once a person takes the Oath of Allegiance to become a US citizen, the green card is surrendered, and the person receives a Certificate of Naturalization (like Joice’s dad had).


Naturalization fees typically total around $750 unless the applicant is over 75, in which case the price is around $640. I would have thought the price would go up, like insurance rates, but the US government sees it differently. The price seems almost reasonable, so it may have changed.


Wannabe citizens of the US are required to take a “Civics Test,” which includes questions about the structure of the US government, American history, and symbols and holidays, I would have trouble answering some of the questions.


Have you heard these remarks? Immigration is what “fuels the economy,” and “immigrants grease the wheels of the labor market,” and, further, the US is a “nation of immigrants.”


Texas is big in size, and it is also big in both emigration (from other states) and immigration (from outside the US). From 2010-2016 Texas led all states in domestic migration, with nearly 867,000 new residents. In 2018 Texas had 4.9 foreign-born individuals (immigrants), which comprised 17% of the population. According to some sources, 1.4 million US Texas citizens have at least one undocumented family member living with them.


Texas doesn’t belong to any person or political party. It is a vast land and territory lying north of Mexico and it beckons immigrants (legal and illegal) from countries mainly south of the border with promises of freedom and a “better” life. The probability of criminals and undesirable people entering the US as immigrants may be real, but it is also a football that the politicians regularly toss back and forth.


Like the apostle Paul, we can expect our citizenship to provide us with certain rights. As a Roman citizen, he and his colleagues should not have been thrown into prison without a proper trial. When Paul appealed on the basis so his citizenship, the Roman officials were afraid. We read that “At once the men who were going to question Paul drew back from him; and the commander was frightened when he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had put him in chains” (Acts 22.29). Citizenship meant that Paul had to be treated differently.


There is another kind of citizenship, one that Paul mentions in Ephesians 2.19: “So then, you Gentiles are not foreigners or strangers any longer; you are now citizens together with God's people and members of the family of God.” We are “citizens of heaven” (Philippians 3.20) and should find out what the requirements are to immigrate there and what it will be like.


We should find out because it is to the advantage of most people (even crooks) to visit and investigate another country before they move there. It would be to their benefit to know the language and culture of the new country where they would be living. They could find out details about infrastructure, cost of living and other practical things.


I am already a “citizen of heaven,” although I have never been there. However, I have been reading about the place for a long time and it sounds pretty “neat.” Although there was once a high-cost entry fee, it has already been paid. There is no individual vernacular spoken, and there are no seminary requirements. Apparently, there is a lot of singing, praying, and feasting by a vast community of residents. St. Peter will be there, but he will not be at the entry booth handing out tickets. You will be identified by (perhaps an angel) finding your new name in a “book of life,” a metaphorical reference to your eternal citizenship in heaven.


It may sound odd to non-citizens, but I can’t wait to get there!


Karl Franklin


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