Discussing citizenship with Anna Crosslin, nominee to the Missouri Commission on Human Rights

Mar 21, 2016

Anna Crosslin is one of two people that Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has nominated to the Missouri Commission on Human Rights. On Monday’s “St. Louis on the Air,” host Don Marsh talked with Crosslin, the CEO of the International Institute of St. Louis, about her experience for such a role.

“It fits in with my personal and my public roles, from the point of view that it makes sense,” Crosslin said. “What we do at the International Institute and what I’ve had a lifelong mission to do is to work toward ensuring equity for people who may, for a variety of reasons, be disenfranchised. This is certainly because of language, cultural issues, etc., not just for foreign born but everyone may in fact have difficulties with a system that may not be really well thought-through and operate in a way where people have that equity.”

Crosslin said that her work at the institute had not been particularly impacted by the current political climate, but that refugees and immigrants who use the organization’s services are certainly aware of it—particularly among clients who are Muslim.

“There’s a heightened sense of fear and safety on their part,” Crosslin said. “They get pushback from the community. Kids are getting harassed in school. The fact they don’t understand a certain amount of English saves them because they don’t understand the discriminatory statements made toward them. Most of them do understand the climate in America right now is very anti-immigrant, anti-refugee and anti-Muslim. They can’t get away from it.

Joining Crosslin were Suk Sapkota, who came to St. Louis in 2012 by way of California as a refugee from Bhutan and became a naturalized citizen in 2015, as well as Amy Puskas, a citizenship instructor at the International Institute.  They discussed the barriers and issues that immigrants face in becoming naturalized citizens of the United States.

“One of the biggest challenges is that so many of these cultures come here and they don’t have background or reference to our history or government,” said Puskas, who teaches classes of 30-40 students to prepare them for the citizenship test.

It took Sapkota about three months of hard studying to prepare for the test.

“I was completely nervous until I passed,” said Sapkota. “Out of 100 questions, we don’t know which questions we’ll be given, so we have to know all the questions.”

Puskas said that for a few days before their interview, she takes time to teach relaxation techniques before their citizenship interview. The test is broken down into three parts: 100 U.S. history and government questions, reading a sentence and writing a sentence, and an interview about the citizenship application.

Listen as Sapkota describes the process he went through to become a citizen, and to learn more about the naturalization process and common misconceptions people have about foreign-born Americans:

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.