Until last Wednesday morning, Senior Johann D’Souza had pledged loyalty to the Canadian flag.
D’Souza, a theology major at the University of Dallas, moved to the United States from Toronto when he was six years old, due to his mother’s job at the medical center in Houston.
Last Wednesday, D’Souza took the oath of American citizenship along with 121 new Americans from 40 different countries in the Citizenship and Immigration Services building in Irving. Mexico accounted for the biggest nationality represented, with 46 individuals from that country taking the oath.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Chief Counsel in Dallas, Paul Hunker III, delivered the speech at the ceremony to welcome the new American citizens, calling them to continue to engage in active service for their local communities, schools and churches.
Hunker, who is familiar with the University of Dallas, said afterwards that D’Souza’s immigration record “was as clean as a whistle” and that he would make a strong contribution as a citizen.
“I think Johann will bring the ideals of citizenship that he has learned at the University of Dallas into society,” Hunker said. “Perhaps he’ll run for office, though he can’t be President.”
D’Souza – listening to Hunker’s words – added, “unless we amend the constitution.”
Although he was already a permanent resident of the United States, D’Souza had grappled for some months with the decision of becoming a citizen, not entirely convinced about taking that step.
“I didn’t want the responsibility that comes with American citizenship,” he said. “I was hesitant to take an oath that I would die for my country.”
However, a conversation with UD politics professor, Dr. David Upham, made him change his mind.
As D’Souza recalls, Upham told him that America is the best country that has ever existed, upon learning of D’Souza’s dilemma between his native country and the U.S.
“My blood is on his hands,” D’Souza said with a smile. In any case, he now feels stronger ties to this country. “If you respect your freedom as a responsibility to pursue the good, America has a lot more potential than Canada,” he said.
Since, D’Souza had been a permanent resident for about a decade, the process to become a citizen was simple. He had to fill out an application, pay a fee, deny any communist or terrorist activity, show proficiency in basic English, and take a quiz in U.S. history and government.
And, of course, he had to take an oath rejecting allegiance to foreign powers and promising to serve his country in the military whenever necessary.
An immigration official who helped organize last Wednesday’s naturalization ceremony, but who wished not to be identified, said the process to become a citizen for permanent residents is relatively easy, and that the main focus is security.
“Our main focus is on national security – we don’t naturalize criminals,” he said. “We are not going to deny naturalization for a traffic violation, but if you have a series of misdemeanors or traffic violations, that’s going to play into it.”
Now that he is an American, D’Souza said he enjoys the freedom of traveling in and out of his new home at leisure.
“The best benefit is living in the United States and being able to come back to the U.S. whenever I want.”