Thursday, April 06, 2006

Civis Romanus Sum

That one statement, I am a citizen of Rome, was enough to ensure safe passage throughout the world for a Roman. No passport or visa was necessary; there were no quotas, no debates as to whether nationality was derived from mother or father or from the place of birth.

Today there is escalating debate throughout the world concerning citizenship and immigration. The heads of the three North American countries have met to discuss the issue; there have been riots in France and vigilantes patrol the southern border of the United States. It is a complex question. It is a question with political and economic implications, a question that impacts governments and individuals. The journey to life in another country has meant death to many.

Not all stories have tragic endings. I remember the Easter when my neighbors Tim and Michelle took off for Moscow with their daughter Gabrielle in the hopes of bringing home a baby. The days and weeks passed. The Russian adoption laws were changing and the red tape prolonged their visit. Eventually they arrived home with a small, blond baby. We have enjoyed watching him grow into a smart, strong boy who is never far from some piece of sports equipment. Here it is a basketball, but it could equally well be a baseball bat or hockey stick. A couple of weeks ago Jared became an American citizen. He looks no different, but the paper conferring citizenship on him has all the weight of a Roman’s statement.

In two days Gody and Frederick leave for Pisa. Gody’s Italian mother, Patrizia, seen here with Gody in Kigali last August, has been working to get Gody Italian citizenship and she will be signing the papers next week. This has been no small accomplishment. It has been a long and circuitous journey for Gody. We will miss her presence at Easter, but rejoice that the country which welcomed her has awarded her citizenship.

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