Traveling back and forth, and to other countries, has been easier because I hold both U.S. and Dominican passports. I became a U.S. citizen in 1991 or 1992. The Dominican constitution allows for one to have citizenship somewhere else without the government considering that you have renounced your Dominican citizenship. One of the advantages of having this dual citizenship is that I do not get stopped in the airports as I used to when I carried only a Dominican passport. I must admit that I had mixed feelings about become a U.S. citizen at the time, however, and I hesitated to tell my father. The Dominican Republic has had a mixed relationship with the United States, in which the U.S. has always been seen as the imperialist empire. There was always that political resistance to being part of the “beast.” But according to the U.S. government official who dictated my English proficiency examination at the citizenship test, “Many come to America looking for freedom.” He had me write that one sentence on his brown paper lunch bag, and then passed me. It’s interesting to compare that idea of the U.S. to those of people in developing nations with mixed relationships with this country.

Because I was working in the security and law enforcement business before I became a U.S. citizen, the legal definition of citizenship was always of interest to me. A person is able to make an arrest on the common law principle of “citizen’s arrest,” which means that when a crime is committed in one’s presence, one has the right to make a citizen’s arrest. At the time, I was technically not a “citizen.” The federal law, and many state laws, has since changed “citizen” to “a private person” in that context, to divorce it from that idea of the legal status of an individual.

In terms of my definition of citizenship, I think I am an earthling. I am a citizen of the globe, of planet Earth. To me, citizenship means to be part of, and recognized as part of, a group that forms your society, or the circle in which you live. It is that sense of belonging and acceptance, which is earned by your actions. It involves carrying out stewardship, or acting in a way that contributes to society. That could be manifested in big ways or in small ways, such as picking up garbage as you walk down the street. I try to contribute in any way I can within the circle. I always try to be useful and helpful. You can claim that you are a citizen of a society, that you belong in it, and that you can be accepted and/or recognized as belonging to it because you’ve earned it through your contributions.