MIAMI — She leaned her head out the window and saw her crewmembers standing by waiting for her orders. With a deep breath she slowly moved the throttle forward and kept one hand on steering wheel and felt the boat slowly begin to move. Shouting commands to her shipmates, she was ready to get the smallboat underway from the pier for the first time. She confidently turned around to make sure there were no hazards to navigations in the way and began to make way out of the Miami harbor.
Amongst her shipmates, she wears the same uniform, she is a crewmember on the same boats, and she serves the same country. She shares the same core values of Honor, Respect and Devotion to Duty, but she was missing something that most of her shipmates were given at birth: U.S. citizenship.
Fireman Samantha Turin, an engineer from Coast Guard Station Miami Beach, Fla., who was originally born in Port Au Prince Haiti, came to the United States in 2004 with a dream to be an American citizen and work in law enforcement.
“We waited five years for the permission to leave Haiti when I finally came over to the United Stated by airplane with my 19 year-old-twin sister and 15-year-old brother in 2004,” said Turin. “I didn’t speak a word of English but I felt like I was home when I arrived in the state of Georgia.”
Turin knew that to become an American Citizen, she would have to put in a lot of hard work and dedication. She learned English by taking classes on her own.
“I knew that I wanted a career in law enforcement so I went to school and got a degree in Criminal Justice,” said Turin. “I had the degree and now I wanted to put it to good use and that is how I found out about the Coast Guard.”
Turin visited a recruiter’s office where she learned all about the Coast Guard and what the sea-going service had to offer.
“I wanted to serve the country that gave me so many opportunities, but I also wanted to conduct law enforcement,” said Turin. “I knew the Coast Guard was going to be the best fit for me.”
To be able to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard, an applicant must be either a U.S. citizen or a foreign national legally residing in the United States with an Immigration and Naturalization Service Alien Registration Card. Applicants must speak, write and read English fluently in order to be cleared for basic training.
Turin was accepted into the Coast Guard and left for Basic Training Center Cape May, N.J. in 2013
“I learned a lot about myself while I was in basic training because there were no distractions,” said Turin. “I was able to reflect on my life and build the self confidence I was going to need to display at my new unit.”
After graduating from Basic Training, Turin received orders to Station Miami Beach. There she learned she needed to obtain a security clearance but because she was not a U.S. Citizen, she was unable to start the process to receive one.
“I obtained all of the right documentation and really focused on what I needed to do to get the process started to obtain my citizenship,” said Turin.
There are only two ways to become a U.S. citizen: by law or by birth. If you are not born in the U.S., then you may seek to become one by naturalization. This administrative process requires an applicant to take part in a series of tests and interviews. The process is strictly governed by the Immigration and Nationality Act.
“It was a long process and a series of waiting to be told whether or not you got accepted,” she said. “But it was the only way I was going to be able to achieve my dream of being an American citizen so I had no choice but to go through the motions.”
On July 26, 2013 Samantha Turin finally became an American Citizen.
Now that she achieved this milestone in her life, she'll be able to apply for her security clearance. She is pursuing a career as a Maritime Enforcement Specialist and currently waiting to attend A school to fulfill her Coast Guard career aspirations and life long dream.
“I felt like I was flying first class when I found out that I was becoming an American citizen,” said Turin. “I am so proud to be an American and serve my country by doing what I love.”