Green Cards and Blue Passports

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With their lives threatened back at home, Quincy, Katie,* and their two boys arrived in Knoxville six years ago carrying passports from Iraq. Quincy’s English was fairly good, but Katie didn’t speak any English until she began attending ESL classes near her home. They didn’t travel much with just US Green Cards.

In 2019, after the required five years of residency, Quincy took and passed the US citizenship test at his first opportunity. Katie was concerned about her English, but she finally decided to try the test only a couple of months after her husband. Even though the written portion was hard for her, she too passed the test! Both new Americans registered to vote at their swearing-in ceremonies, where they also received a small American flag to keep. Katie put her flag in their Christmas tree.

A couple of weeks after her own citizenship was finalized, Katie took the boys to Nashville for fingerprinting and registration. Three months later, everyone in the family was officially American!

Katie said her new blue passport makes her feel safe. Quincy explains, “There’s no risk that they will send you away. With a green card, maybe they would send you back for some reason. Even when you go back home to visit your family, it’s different with a blue American passport. Before, if the immigration officer was not in a good mood, maybe you will wait five or ten hours at the airport, but not with an American passport!”

This is Quincy and Katie’s first 4th of July as US citizens. Before the pandemic, they had planned to go downtown and enjoy the fireworks, but now Katie says she will bake a cake to celebrate. And of course, they’ll wave their small American flags because, as Quincy puts it, “I’m so proud now I’m an American. It’s something very great.”


As you celebrate Independence Day next week, consider the freedom and safety we take for granted and spare a minute to imagine how a new American, like Quincy or Katie, might feel.

*Names changed for privacy.

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