Richmond Hill vet to get his . . . DREAM OF CITIZENSHIP

A Richmond Hill man who has served in the U.S. military for four years - including two tours in Iraq - will receive a long overdue present later this month when he officially becomes a U.S. citizen.
Twenty-two-year-old Sergeant Feyad Mohammed, who moved to Richmond Hill from Trinidad and Tobago with his parents and younger siblings eight years ago, passed his citizenship test on Thursday, December 20 after years of bungled paperwork and red tape delayed one of his lifelong dreams.
Officials told Mohammed he would officially be sworn in as a U.S. citizen, with other approved applicants, at a ceremony in Brooklyn on Friday, January 25.
“It was pretty much like finally,” said an exuberant Mohammed, shortly after he found out that he passed his test. “It was a good holiday gift to finally know that progress was made and to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
After graduating Richmond Hill High School, Mohammed enlisted in the U.S. Army and traveled to Tal Afar, Iraq for his first overseas tour in 2003. He spent less than two months there before returning to the U.S. when his group’s mission was complete. Back in the U.S., Mohammed made his first attempt to file the necessary paperwork to become an American citizen, but - in what would become a common occurrence for the next four years - his submitted paperwork was lost.
While continuing his military service, Mohammed’s unit was deployed to Beji, Iraq, which is a region just south of Tikrit, in 2005, and he served as a team leader for a group of four men for nearly one year. During his service, he said his lack of citizenship never really crossed his mind.
“It’s funny, because I only felt it [not being a citizen] when I was out of the military,” Mohammed said. “When I was in the military, when I was in charge of my guys, I felt like I was [a citizen], even though the paperwork said otherwise.”
After returning from his second tour in Iraq, he made two more attempts to apply for citizenship and encountered similar obstacles.
When he decided not to reenlist in the Army in July of 2007, he received an honorary discharge and decided to concentrate fully on his citizenship application. Later that month, he sent in all of his paperwork again - including paying a $400 fee that military members are supposed to be exempt from - and he received a note back in August saying his application was sent to the wrong place.
“You get enough practice doing it unfortunately,” Mohammed said. “Instead of them sending back the money and saying you don’t need to pay the money, they sent me this big, long form saying I sent it [the application] to the wrong service station. That’s when I got pretty fed up.”
Mohammed, whose parents and younger siblings all became citizens while he was serving in the military, wanted to work as a New York Police Department (NYPD) officer or with the Port Authority, but since he was not a citizen, he could take the tests for those positions, but could not take a job until his citizenship was in order.
After four unsuccessful attempts, Mohammed contacted the office of U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer hoping that his office could help speed up the process. A representative in Schumer’s office spoke with Mohammed, and on Veteran’s Day 2007, Schumer criticized the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) for its delay in getting Mohammed’s application processed, saying that military serving the country should have their citizenship applications fasttracked.
“When we heard his story, we got right on the case, and I want to thank the immigration services for their hard work and responsiveness,” Schumer said. “Later this month, Mohammed will become a full-fledged citizen, and I was proud that I could help him realize his long-fought dream.”
Mohammed said that once Schumer’s office became involved with his case, the process accelerated greatly. On Thursday, December 20, Mohammed passed his citizenship test and CIS officials told him he would officially become a citizen later this month.
“The ordeal that Mohammed endured was an outrage, and I am glad it was resolved swiftly and positively,” Schumer said in a statement. “He is a model New Yorker and a true American hero who deserves to be treated as such.”
Now, Mohammed said his career attention has shifted from the NYPD to working for the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“I know it’s a little ironic that I would work for ICE, but after looking at it [ICE], I really want to get into it,” he said. “Being in New York, I would really get to serve the immigrant population.”

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