Immigrant Voices

Client: Marielle Coeytaux-Britton

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After living in the United States for 31 years, Marielle Coeytaux-Britton can proudly call herself a U.S. citizen. Marielle took her oath of allegiance this past spring. She was recognized by the Napa County Board of Supervisors this past July, for successfully becoming U.S. citizens.

 

As an IIBA client, Marielle recalls, “I appreciated having a legal advisor at hand to help with some complex issues.” Now that she is a citizen, Marielle is especially excited to vote for the first time in November. She considers voting a duty that should not be taken for granted. She explains, “Having a voice that will be heard and taken into account in all decisions that directly affect my life is what makes this country special.”

 

In a letter to the editor, published by the Napa Valley Register and Saint Helena Star, Marielle eloquently shared what becoming a U.S. citizen means to her:

 

On July Fourth, I invited some of my special friends into my backyard to celebrate my newly obtained citizenship. We drank Champagne and raised our glasses to this exciting accomplishment, finalized this spring.

 

Yes, indeed; in March, along with 1,053 other new citizens (representing 97 different countries from around the world), I took my oath of citizenship to the United States of America. What a joy it is for me to be officially acknowledged by both of my countries! (France and U.S.)

 

I’ve chosen the U.S. as my country because here I have a voice—one that can be expressed (thanks to “Freedom of Speech”) and one that will be taken into account (thanks to “one person/one voice” in all decisions regarding me personally).

 

The greatest part of this all is that this principal of equality (equal rights and equal voice) is granted not just to me, but to all my fellow citizens! How cool is that!

 

But the shootings of racial character that took place this past week seemed totally incongruent in all of this. I had understood that this country was not a juxtaposition of blacks and whites, women and men, rich and poor—but that we were all fellow citizens, bound together by one founding principle: Liberty and Justice for ALL.

 

Maybe we need to become colorblind (and gender blind), so as to look beyond the skin and physical appearances of our fellow citizens. We must remove those veils of racial and gender bias with which we clothe others (to justify the injustice that we perpetrate)!

 

I personally care less about gender, race or money than I do about human suffering. When violence is perpetrated against someone, I feel for the victim, regardless of his/her color, gender, social rank, profession, family name. And I request that the perpetrator be held accountable for his/her violent act, regardless of his/her color, gender, social rank, profession, family name. And when I say “regardless,” I mean regardless. Because if we truly disregarded all those things (color, gender, social rank, personal wealth), we would hold only the individual responsible for that act, and not add a grudge against all those of that same color, gender, wealth (or whatever).

 

Our Constitution was built around the notion of private property, individual rights and protection of those individual rights. This means that we are recognized as the owners of what is ours and responsible for what is ours. We are individually held responsible for our acts (and must own up to them), but we are not held responsible for the acts of others. This is essential to the principle of Liberty and Justice for all that is so dear to us all—it’s the liberty to take ownership of what is yours and to take ownership of what you do to others. No colors attached, no gender attached, no money consideration attached. Is that too much to from a country that claims Liberty and Justice for All?

 

OK, fellow Americans, I’m climbing aboard. Thank you for letting me onto your ship. Let’s keep it afloat.

 

—Marielle Coeytaux-Britton

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