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Posted on Sun, Apr. 23, 2006

Some immigrants proud of their work to become U.S. citizens

Associated Press

MINOT, N.D. - While many illegal immigrants in the United States are protesting immigration laws, some immigrants here are proud of their work to become legal U.S. citizens.

Chris Chua knew young that he wanted to live in America, so his parents placed his name on a waiting list to emigrate to the United States while he was still in elementary school.

He arrived in the United States from his native Philippines when he was 17 and later joined the U.S. Air force. Earlier this year, Chua took the oath to become a U.S. citizen.

Now Chua watches coverage of protests by illegal immigrants and thinks it's a little unfair that they want to skip all of the steps he took to become a legal immigrant.

Other immigrants from the area, many of whom are taking a citizenship class at the Minot Adult Learning Center in hopes of passing the citizenship test, agree with Chua.

"I think they should go through the legal (process) like we do," said June-Marie vonOsinski, who is originally from Canada. "I feel very strongly about it."

Tania Pippin, who is from Great Britain and has been in the United States since 1999, said she has mixed feelings about the issue. She has seen the poor working conditions of many illegal immigrants and knows that they work for low wages.

She said if they are permitted to stay in the United States under a guest worker program, as has been discussed in Congress, they should be required to pay federal taxes on their wages.

People who want to come to the United States often have to wait years for the opportunity. Once an immigrant has applied, they join a long line of people waiting for visas.

Spouses and immediate family members of an immigrant already living in the United States are given priority. Chua's father left his family to come to the United States when Chua was a preschool, which gave Chua a chance to immigrate.

For a Filipino adult who applies to come the United States, the wait can be 15 years, Chua said.

The Philippines, along with China, India and Mexico, are considered "oversubscribed" by the U.S. Immigration Service because of their large populations, which means people from those countries face longer waiting periods.

Legal immigrants must pass a background check, go through an interview process to prove they are conversant in English, and pass an American history test that many native born American citizens might fail in order to become a citizen.

Marriage to an American citizen or being in the military can speed up the process.

One question on the citizenship test asks which right that an American has is most important. The answer is "the right to vote."

vonOsinski, who says she was involved in politics in Canada, said she feels strongly about that right.

"I want to vote," she said. "I just can't see living in a country if you can't vote."

Information from: Minot Daily News,