Making it official

Brahm Resnik displays his citizenship certificate after the July 25 ceremony at Phoenix's Burton Barr Central Library.

Photo courtesy of Brahm Resnik

Brahm Resnik, a native of Montreal, said he always felt more American than Canadian. On July 26, the KPNX-TV news reporter and anchor made it official during a naturalization ceremony in which he and 59 others, representing 32 different countries, became citizens.

"As I tell folks, 'Growing up, I always felt Americanized,'" Resnik told Jewish News this week. "I'm very comfortable in the United States. I knew more about American history than I did Canadian history, and I always knew, for family reasons and who knows what else ... that I just would probably live here one day."

Two naturalization ceremonies, where immigrants are sworn in as citizens, are held every week at the federal courthouse in Phoenix, and then there are special ceremonies, including ones held at various venues around the Fourth of July. Resnik had a special reason for choosing to be sworn in at the library's Citizenship Day event.

"The beauty of it was ... my wife, Wendy, oversees children's services for the library system, and one of her duties is running the annual Citizenship Day in July, so she helped coordinate the entire day. ... They make kids a centerpiece of the ceremony, which makes it even more moving. The library has a large teen group, a youth group, and they bring them all into the ceremony, and the color guard is the Phoenix Youth Color Guard, and kids who go to the library a lot, they read poems, they led us in with little signs," representing their country of origin, such as Poland, Bangladesh and, of course, Canada.

His wife was born in the U.S., so he didn't have to become a citizen to live here, he said. "But over time, especially as I covered politics longer, it just felt like, 'I need to really commit to this,' to living here, to being a citizen, to what the country stands for."

Resnik, who has lived in the U.S. for 23 years, admits that he procrastinated until last year: "I said, 'OK. This is the year. It's an election year coming up. Let's just do it.'"

Politics is his coverage specialty, and he is the host of "Sunday Square Off," Channel 12's political roundtable at 8 a.m. Sundays, which often discusses issues such as immigration.

His citizenship application was "plain vanilla" and went through relatively quickly, he said. "I think I applied in September (2011), went down and got fingerprinted, went down and had my interview ... By March, I was approved."

The interview is much like a test for a driver's license, except that it's spoken, not written, and consists of 10 questions, out of 100 possible questions, about the United States and its history. For instance, the interviewer might ask how many amendments the U.S. Constitution has. (Answer: 27.)

The application fee starts at $700. "People don't realize how expensive this is," he said. "Now, I'm not saying it was a hardship for me, but I do know for many people who want to become citizens, it is a hardship. It's at least $700, and it goes up from there depending on the documentation you need and how complicated your situation is."

Resnik had strong family ties to the United States growing up. Eli Schapiro, his great-grandfather on his mother's side, arrived at Ellis Island in 1911, with plans to bring his family over later. He proceeded to do so, but by the time he was able to bring over his son Yankel in 1920, immigration quotas had changed. So Sol Schapiro, one of Eli's sons in the U.S. and Resnik's great-uncle, went to Montreal to seek someone in the Jewish community there to sponsor his brother's immigration to Canada, where the rules were easier.

"He'd never been there, knew nobody," Resnik said. "He's literally wandering the streets trying to find somebody." A kindly woman he met said, "Yes," and the family arrived in 1930, taking a train to Montreal after crossing from Rotterdam to Halifax on a ship called Veendam. They planned to immigrate to the U.S. the next year, but were turned away at the border because the border guard thought their 6-year-old daughter looked sick. She died of leukemia shortly afterward, and Resnik's grandparents did not try to immigrate here again.

"So they settled in Montreal, but much of our family on my mother's side was in the States," Resnik said. "So for big simchas and bar mitzvahs, we were always going to Long Island or Brooklyn or wherever, because that's where they were."

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