It's been a long time coming for the Boudreau family, as Wes Boudreau no longer has to worry about filing paperwork, renewing Green Cards or the possibility of being separated from his family.
On Jan. 21, Boudreau became a U.S. citizen in …
This item is available in full to subscribers
Click here to log in
If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.
If you aren't yet a subscriber,
click here to start a new subscription.
On Jan. 21, Boudreau became a U.S. citizen in Charleston, a decision he debated for many years and was glad he finally committed to.
"Here in the U.S., the opportunity is unlimited," he said, "and in terms of opportunity in what you want to do in which you want to achieve, in a lot countries people don't realize it's limited. Even in Canada, it's somewhat limited."
Born and raised in Canada, Boudreau found himself in the United States to study and compete in track and field at the University of Tennessee as a shotput and hammer thrower in 1994.
While attending school in the U.S., he met his Tennessee native wife, Maris Boudreau, whom he didn't want to leave behind along with the country.
After graduating from the university in 1998, he had to return to his native country, file paperwork for a new visa and go through various interviews showing that he and his wife were in a real relationship, as they were engaged.
"People take for granted the whole immigration process. I went through it firsthand," he said. "That took forever."
He went through immigration more than once, and it wasn't easy. He went through it for school, to get married - which was denied the first time for a reason Wes and Maris could not recall - and to become a permanent resident in the U.S.
The most difficult time during the process was when 9/11 happened.
"They closed the border to Canada, and he couldn't get back in, and I couldn't get out to go to him," Maris said. "It was November when they finally opened the borders."
However, Wes couldn't get back in the States, so Maris hopped on a plane and headed north to Canada.
The two had to deal with interviews back to back - separated and together - proving their relationship was real and genuine.
"You have to supply so much evidence to show the relationship was true and authentic," Wes said. "It's a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of interviews."
At times, the process felt invasive to the two because their secrets and shared moments were exploited to complete strangers.
"I was a little embarrassed because they asked about some of the cards, and there were things that were private to the two of us," Maris said.
Wes considered the process long, but he thought it was long for a reason.
"Everyone that's trying to do it right in terms of legal immigration, it takes forever because there's a reward at the very end," Wes said.
The Boudreaus eventually made it through the process, and Wes was finally able to reside in the States. From Tennessee to Georgia, the two now reside in Sumter with their 12-year-old daughter Kaylan.
However, Wes consistently had to file paperwork to renew his permanent Green Card, which only lasts for 10 years, and an application for permanent residence takes anywhere from seven to 33 months to process, according to the United States government. This was something he wanted to end.
On top of the time-consuming process, he had to consider his family.
"To not ever be separated from my family was one reason," he said, "and having a sense of belonging in the United States."
To Wes, the United States always felt like home since 1994, and to become an American citizen would give him the opportunities and voice that people can't get in other countries, such as voting.
"I think everyone needs to get out and vote," he said. "It's your right. It doesn't matter what side you're on. People come to the United States to have that ability to have a say. That's the most important thing."
In his citizenship ceremony, there were 25 individuals becoming Americans in Charleston, and out of the 25, they represented 20 countries from Germany, Russia and Uzbekistan to Israel, Syria and more.
"The whole ceremony was real special. It was really solemn," Wes said.
"It's exciting for the families, too," Maris said. "Everybody was so excited to see their family member, or the person they sponsored, just to see how excited they were. Nobody cared about what side of the fence they're on. They were just so happy to be here, and everybody had a common goal."
On Tuesday, South Carolina Sen. Thomas McElveen and Sumter Mayor Joe McElveen presented him with S.C. Senate recognition and an American flag that flew over the South Carolina capitol building to welcome him as an official American citizen.
Wes felt relief as all his worrying came to an end once he became an American, and the long process it took him to get to where he is today made not only him, but also his wife, reflect on how Americans are lucky to be born into such a free country.
"Americans, we kind of forget how great this country really is," he said. "There's so much good going on in America, you don't really hear any of it."
"As an American, I think a lot of times we take for granted that we get to have citizenship and that we're just born with it," Maris said. "It really does mean something to be an American."
More Articles to Read