Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Freedom Isn't Free

Or so they tell me.

I have a friend who's lived her life in pursuit of freedom. She's a refugee from Cambodia--or, rather, she was born to Cambodian refugee parents in a camp on the Thai border. She's now been in the United States for ten years, long enough to qualify for citizenship. Those who were under age 18 when the ten-year anniversary rolls around, like her two younger brothers, are automatically granted citizenship. My friend, and both her parents, must take a test to demonstrate their knowledge of this country they've chosen as home. A test that the average American might have a difficult time passing, but immigrants do it all the time.

They overcame the struggles of their homeland, travel, sickness, employment, language, culture, and time to reach this.

And now, they have to pony up $300 to get it.

My friend has grown to be a beautiful, intelligent girl. A straight-A's student at her suburban high school. She was awarded a scholarship to a local university (close enough that her mother will permit her to attend).

But for all the benefits she retains as a permanent resident, she still lacks the full privilege of being American. For all citizenships' guarantees, there is one that affects us all: she won't be able to vote, either, and at a time we should all make our voices heard.

I want to help her out. (She doesn't know it yet.) Anyone with me?

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