(Postings will only be on Monday and Thursday this week and the next. Traveling.)

Many of the staff at the DSK biergarten, my local for the last few years, have volunteered that they make good money working at the bar. Even so, many have left. This is hardly surprising. Most of them have interests outside waiting on tables or bartending, and they move on to those other things.

My favorite of the servers who has left I will call Aylin. When I learned her background, I said that she was a New Yorker’s nightmare: a German Muslim. She was born in Germany to Turkish parents who had emigrated to Germany. She has spent a lot of time in Turkey, and we talked about that country frequently. She taught me where the accent should go for the last name of the Nobel-Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk. She, somewhat shyly, said that she had not read any of his books, and I dusted off a Pamuk book or two I owned and gave them to her.

She was an undergraduate studying psychology, and while a DSK server, fell in love with an American citizen. She was in the US on a student visa but wanted to stay here after she finished her undergraduate degree. She knew that she could get permanent resident status if she married an American. Aylin and her boyfriend, in an ideal world, would have waited a year or two more before marriage, but with her student visa expiring soon, they planned to wed as quickly as they could.

Several of the DSK servers are not citizens, and from them I have learned that their immigration status affects many of their decisions, big and small, something that this native-born citizen seldom thinks about. And, of course, the anti-immigrant sentiments sweeping the country have, on some level or another, rattled nearly every one of them, even though all are here legally.

Aylin’s situation made me think back to a family who had Thanksgiving dinner with us for many years. The parents, both medical doctors who had been born in mainland China and were citizens there, had worked in the United States for a long time and had permanent resident status here. Their only daughter had been born in China, but she came to this country, not speaking a word of English, in the first grade. She attended public schools in the New Jersey town where her parents had bought a house. By the sixth grade, she won the English, and other school academic, prizes. She had her choice of colleges, and after attending a prestigious one worked in a management consultant firm before heading off to one of the country’s top medical schools. She may have been born in China, but she was an American woman who soon married and started a family.

The daughter said that she was planning to become an American citizen and asked her parents to get American citizenship, too. The mother talked to me about whether she should become an American citizen. She said that it would be hard to give up her Chinese citizenship; she had grown up as a Chinese citizen and it had always been a part of her identity. I don’t really understand dual citizenship, but America apparently allows a naturalized citizen to keep their original citizenship, at least if they come from certain countries. Many countries, but not all, are fine with dual citizenship, but some require that people lose their original citizenship when they become naturalized in the US. China apparently does not allow dual citizenship, or at least it does not allow it with the United States. My Chinese friend, if she became an American citizen, would no longer be a Chinese citizen; she would be a foreigner in her birth place, her original home.

I listened and understood. Whenever I have thought of starting a new life in another country, I knew that it would be hard to stop thinking of myself as American and even harder to relinquish my citizenship. But I asked the mother, “Do you plan to stay in the United States?” She said yes. I said that in that case I thought she should get American citizenship. We were talking years ago when anti-immigrant feelings were strong, but not as strong as now. I told her that I did not trust this country and its feelings towards those who were not citizens. I was not predicting this, but there was always the possibility that the country would strip today’s permanent residents of that status. There is no guarantee that the present system will continue, I told her. If you know you want to stay in the US, be safe and become a citizen. Both she and her daughter did.

Her husband, however, did not. This is not because he has stronger psychological ties to China. He was a victim of the cultural revolution, something he has great difficulty talking about and was very upset about the government’s actions during the protests at Tiananmen Square. His Chinese citizenship, however, has family advantages. He can simply get on a plane and go to China. Now that the mother and daughter are American citizens, they no longer can. They must get visas, which means traveling to a consulate and generally encountering long lines, other delays, and officious bureaucracy. Trips back “home” for them must be planned well in advance, but not for the father as long he retains his Chinese citizenship. The mother and father were concerned that if any of their parents in China or other relatives got sick or had some other emergency, no one could get there in time if they all became American citizens.

This American family had considerations most of the rest of us Americans never had to weigh.

(continued November 8)

RELATED POST: https://ameliasdad.blog/?s=DSK

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