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"Immigration Laws?" posted April 24, 2006 at 10:33 AM

With all the fuss about immigration and citizenship in the news, I was reminded of my father's own immigration and citizenship story.

My father, Gaetano Zaza, came to America to visit in 1910, again in 1923, and then in 1924 to remain permanently.

After being here for almost two years, and having settled in Youngstown, Ohio, he decided to obtain citizenship, and inquired from an influential Italian-American how to go about it--but without having to go to night school classes to study American Civics and History. This person, whose identity my father vaguely referred to as a low-ranking Mafia member, arranged a midnight meeting with the judge who presided over the naturalizations in the court room. My father's only instructions were to bring with him two quarts of the best liquor he could find, and to present them to the judge.

The judge, who was himself an Italian-American, instructed my father thusly: "When you appear in court, you must repeat everything I say, exactly as I say it". The dialogue on the appointed court day went like this:

Judge: "Who was the first president of the United States, George Washington?"
Papa: "Who wasa the forsta presidente ofa the United States, Giorgio Washintona?"

Judge: "What is the capital of the United States, Washington D.C.?"
Papa: "Whatsa the capitola ofa the United States, Washintona deezee?"

After several more history questions, presented in the same format, the Judge banged his gavel, announced my father had passed his test, ordered him to raise his right hand, administered the oath, and declared Gaetano Zaza was now a naturalized citizen of the United States of America!

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