The Tufty Club. Joining the Boy Scouts would have involved a pledge of allegiance to God and Queen, but I had decided that wasn’t for me, so I was safe there.
Still, as with my application for permanent residence, I decided it was better to tell them things they almost certainly didn’t need to know, so I listed my membership in Greenpeace and Amnesty International. I also confessed my ongoing membership of the ACLU. I felt like I ought to get bonus points for that, given that it’s an organization whose entire purpose is defending US constitutional rights.
I breezed through a bunch more questions, then I hit number 22:
Have you ever committed, assisted in committing, or attempted to commit, a crime or offense for which you were not arrested?
Again, I think I understand the underlying intent, but that’s an awfully wide net to cast.
Jaywalking is technically a crime. Not quite making it back to the parking meter before the time expires is technically a civil offense in Texas. You recorded a mix tape for your girlfriend in 1986? That’s a breach of copyright law. One lawyer wrote a book discussing his estimate that the average American commits three felonies a day, and you can find lists of examples you might have committed. Once you add in non-felonious crimes like walking a dog on a leash more than six feet long, are you sure you’ve never committed any offense for which you were not arrested?
For example, as I was researching obscure laws in order to write this, I learned that Texas law requires that you always use the parking brake when parking. Until just now, I had no idea that was a law, and yes, I’ve parked the Prius on flat ground by putting it in “Park” mode, without using the separate mechanical parking brake.
Anyhow, as I was filling out the form, I pondered the crime question for a while. Eventually I concluded that there was an implicit missing clause: What it’s really asking is whether you’ve ever committed a crime or offense significant enough to be relevant to USCIS. They’re not really asking about your overdue library books or whether you always use the parking brake.
Personally, I’ve never been stopped by police in the US. I was once stopped by UK police, but they just asked me what I was doing walking through town at 4am, and I told them, and that was the end of it. I’ve never received a parking ticket or had my car towed. I’ve attended protests, but they’ve always been peaceful ones. I’ve seen the inside of a US jail cell, but only because my sister-in-law is a police officer in Minnesota and showed us the facilities. So I honestly don’t think I’ve ever committed any crime which would give the USCIS pause, and I said so.
A potentially tricky part of the form is listing every time you’ve traveled outside the country for the last 5 years. I remembered having trouble with that when I originally applied for the green card, because they checked my application against the stamps in my passport. For obscure, uninteresting and innocent reasons they hadn’t obviously matched, and I’d had to explain.
This time, it was pretty easy, as I hadn’t traveled overseas as much, and now that it’s 2016 I could easily get the precise dates by checking Evernote and looking at EXIF timestamps on my photos.
I finished filling out the form and sent everything off back in April. I was a bit concerned about how long it might take to process — Texas has seen a massive Trump-fueled surge in naturalization applications. It turned out, though, to be much faster than the green card process. I was notified in May that my interview would be in June. I’ve already written about the day of the interview, so next up I’ll write about the naturalization ceremony itself. © mathew 2017
© mathew 2017