Jasmin Fashami is Cal Poly’s Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) President; as of Tuesday, she is also a United States citizen. On Tuesday, April 23, Fashami was at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Downtown LA with almost 4,000 others getting sworn in as American citizens.
“It was such an empowering moment, because you can see people from every country, every background, every age group represented,” Fashami said. “Every single person had the same commonality of finally being able to call this place their home. Saying the US and the Americas is where I belong.”
“It was such an empowering moment because you can see people from every country, every background, every age group represented”
Fashami was born in the Netherlands, but her family is Persian. Her parents lived in Iran but had to leave the country during the time of war and were refugees in the Netherlands, according to Fashami. At the age of six, she immigrated with her family right after her sister was born in 2004.
“It’s an honor to finally be a U.S. citizen,” Fashami said.
Fashami said she has considered America, specifically California, her home since she was in elementary school. However, she said she found it difficult at times knowing she did not have the same opportunities as most of her friends and family members.
Moving through the basic steps of the U.S. citizenship process took Fashami a year and a half. Once the test and interview process happened, the swearing in came within two weeks.
Fashami’s process was unique — it started when she was 17, and she was granted citizenship at the age of 20. All the forms were filled out when Fashami was 17 years old, but by the time they were approved, she had already turned 18 and was no longer able to get citizenship through her parents. She had to start from square one.
According to immigration law, minors can gain citizenship through their parents if they are U.S. citizens by birth or naturalization and their biological child was born abroad. There are a few different ways to do this, but it can get tricky due to complications and exceptions. For example, this law does not apply to adopted children.
The citizenship process is unique to all who apply. Fashami saw this first hand and said that not everyone had the same opportunities as her.
“I have family and friends who immigrated from different countries, have been through different life circumstances, and because of that they are still in the waiting process,” Fashami said.
“I have family and friends who immigrated from different countries, have been through different life circumstances and because of that, they are still in the waiting process”
With different barriers for other families, Fashami said she “think[s] [she] ha[s] gotten lucky in the sense that [her] family has been there every step of the way.”
As ASI president, Fashami gained experience while working toward her political dream job of working for the Department of Justice or Department of State as a lawyer. She has the mindset of “if you have the opportunities and the support you can really accomplish what you are passionate about.”
Going through the process of obtaining citizenship, Fashami said she has seen a side of the government that she feels “moves at a snail pace sometimes.”
After the forms were submitted, Fashami had a few appointments at immigration centers during the summer. She said this was convenient to come in since school was not in session, but once classes started up again and the process moved forward, the appointments would be scheduled at random times of the week.
For a while, Fashami said it was difficult to balance becoming a U.S. citizen while keeping up with all her responsibilities in San Luis Obispo.
Movement in the process started in April 2018 when Fashami drove down to Ventura to take a photo and fingerprints. However, she did not hear anything from immigration services for about 10 months afterward. Every month she would get an email saying there were no updates at that time. During this null period, Fashami said she was getting nervous thinking about her future plans of going to law school in the fall. For many of the jobs she wanted to apply for in the federal government, she needed to be a US citizen.
“I’m thinking, this is really going to limit my opportunity next year if they don’t hurry up with the process” Fashami said.
But Fashami got an email at the end of March 2019 to come in for her citizenship test. She was put in a room with a worker and questioned about U.S. history, current issues, why she wants to be a citizen and whether or not she had committed a crime, as well as on other topics.
“It’s a really long, heavy Q&A session essentially,” Fashami said.
At the end of the session, Immigration Services notified her that she passed, and there was an update online that her swearing in ceremony would be in six months, in September 2019.
Soon after, her dad called with an update. They received a letter in the mail on Sunday, April 21 saying her ceremony had been moved to two days from then. With only 48 hours to prepare and move things around, she drove down late Monday night and came back to San Luis Obispo Tuesday night.
As a political science student with a passion for politics, Fashami said that “not even being able to vote has been a difficult thing for me to process.”
As ASI president, Fashami has aimed to influence people to register to vote and use that power in an effective way.
Fashami’s dad, Farhad Fashami, said they immigrated with the goal of improving the family’s life. He said the most important key to success is having equal access to the same opportunities and tools as everybody else, especially after spending a large amount of his life in the U.S. paying taxes and contributing to society like everyone else. He wanted to provide the same opportunities to his family.
“The first thing I did when coming here [was] working toward the immigration process to achieve those goals, and after so many years, it paid off,” Farhad Fashami said. “In the end, you want to participate in important decisions that impact your family and future, and a lot of that has to do with being a citizen [who] has the right to vote, and your vote matters.”
“Now that my family has been through this process, shown our dedication to this country and our servitude for the U.S., it’s exciting to finally see that be fulfilled,” Fashami said.