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Scotland native has seen both sides of immigration issue
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Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Elizabeth Williams of Moline felt compelled to become a U.S. citizen, which she did in 2008. Ms. Williams, a native of Scotland, has lived in the U.S. since 1987.
Elizabeth Williams has a unique perspective on immigration, having been on both sides.

The Scotland native investigated immigration fraud in the Philippines before falling in love with a Marine security guard from Moline and moving to the U.S.

She grew up in a small village in Scotland, and said if you didn't want to go into farming, you moved to a larger area, such as London. Instead, she joined the Diplomatic Corps and spent eight or nine years overseas.

"I never thought about coming to America, although I saw a picture of sequoia trees with cars driving through the roots, and I wanted to see that," Ms. Williams said. "I still haven't gotten there. My mother would talk about the Yank troops stationed near our village during World War II."

She said her job in the Diplomatic Corps was exciting."I dealt with immigration fraud in the Philippines. There were a lot of problems with mail-order brides. Immigration, no matter where you are, is lively."

Then a new kind of excitement entered her life.

"I met Scott, who was from Moline, when he was a Marine security guard at the embassy in Bangladesh, and I was with the British High Command in the mid-'80s. I was there three years and then transferred to the Vice Council in the Philippines. He transferred, too, but eventually left the Marines and returned to Moline to go to school.

"We got married in Scotland, and then I returned to the Philippines to start the paperwork to come to America," she said.

"When I did the paperwork in the Philippines, I planned to file in Manila, but instead I went back to London. You're allowed in the country for two years and then you have to do an interview with Immigration. Unfortunately, my papers were lost, and I had to start all over and reapply again. My husband enlisted the help of Congressman Lane Evans, and he got the ball rolling."

Mrs. Williams said she was fortunate to be an immigration insider and an English speaker. "There's a lot of waiting at Immigration. I really feel sorry for immigrants who don't speak English. It's hard."

Being in the U.S. wasn't the end of the paperwork. "There was a two-year wait for a green card, which you have to renew every 10 years," she said. "You can't just make an appointment; you have to wait in line at the Federal Building in Chicago, and they might close for the day before you've had your turn, so you have to come back the next day.

"Scott wanted me to become a citizen so we wouldn't have to go through this, but I didn't want to give up my Scottish citizenship. I didn't feel American," Ms. Williams said.

However, "the rules for deportation began to change; you could always be deported for major crimes, but now you can be deported for being arrested," she said. "I decided it was time."

Ms. Williams said that becoming a citizen was a long, expensive process."They give you a packet of materials (to study for the immigration exam), and the third-grade students I worked with helped me study. They had a big cake for me when I passed."

She has worked with the Moline School District for 15 years as a paraprofessional.

Ms. Williams said she has no regrets about the process."Doing the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time as a citizen was so emotional. I became a citizen on Halloween 2008. I was sworn in at the Rock Island Federal Court with one of my sons present (the other was in China).

"There were 32 people there from 13 countries," Ms. Williams said. "I felt bad for the people who didn't have loved ones with them. The only bad thing was that I wasn't able to vote in the 2008 election, but I voted early in 2012."

She said living in the United States took some adjustment."It took a while to get used to driving on the other side of the road. Spelling was a big issue — I'm used to British spelling. Words here don't mean the same as they do in Scotland.

"I came here by myself to meet my future in-laws," Ms. Williams said. "We ate at the airport restaurant, and my future father-in-law ordered biscuits. In Scotland, biscuits are what you call cookies here, so I thought, 'How lovely, tea and biscuits before my flight.'

"Imagine the surprise when they brought out these big things and my future father-in-law put gravy on them. Gravy goes on meat!"

Ms. Williams said she misses the fish and chips in Scotland. "They're not the same here. I miss the seasons in the Scottish Highlands and the mountains. I don't miss the rain. A 70-degree day is like a heat wave. If they get one or two inches of snow, things close down.

"I've come full circle. I want to encourage my kids, Ian and Seth, to take advantage of all of their rights. They both voted (in 2012). After what I've seen from working in the Diplomatic Corps, I know it's not the end of the world if you don't have a video game."

United Kingdom
-- Location: Western Europe, islands -- including the northern one-sixth of the island of Ireland -- between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea; northwest of France.

-- Population: 63,047,162 (July 2012 estimate). No. 22 in the world.

-- Languages: English. The following are recognized regional languages: Scots (about 30 percent of the population of Scotland), Scottish Gaelic (about 60,000 in Scotland), Welsh (about 20 percent of the population of Wales), Irish (about 10 percent of the population of Northern Ireland), Cornish (some 2,000 to 3,000 in Cornwall).

Source: CIA World Factbook.



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