Longtime Grayling resident from Iceland becomes U.S. citizen
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
While Ingunn Hraunfjord has considered herself an American for several years, with immigration continuing to dominate the headlines, she recently went through the process to become a citizen.
Hraunfjord, who is a native from Iceland, was sworn in as a citizen of the United States of America on Monday, Jan. 22, at a ceremony held in Detroit.
Hraunfjord was born in Iceland in 1968. Iceland is an island located in the North Atlantic Ocean between Greenland and the United Kingdom. The country is about the same size as the state of Kentucky.
“It’s beautiful there and there are mountains,” Hraunfjord said.
Iceland is in the same time zone as Alaska.
“We have the same pattern with the dark winters and no daylight and in the summer there ends up being a few minutes of nighttime around 2 o’ clock in the morning and then you look out the window in the summer and it’s still daylight,” she said.
The country has a population of 337,780 citizens, most of whom live in the capital of Reykjavik. It has a president, who is voted in, a prime minister, and a parliament. Like Canada and United Kingdom, the country provides socialized medicine.
“You go to the hospital and get covered, but nothing free though – you pay taxes,” Hraunfjord said.
Hraunfjord worked at a movie theater and a fish factory when she was younger.
“That’s their main export is fish,” she said. “Fish is big.”
Hraunfjord went to school and college in Iceland. She sold cars and insurance as the first jobs in her career.
Hraunfjord first came to the states in 1990, after she married her then husband, who was a Gaylord resident stationed in Iceland with the U.S. Air Force for four years.
They lived at the Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda, before it was closed, and in Plattsburgh, New York, where another Air Force base was shut down. The family lived in Traverse City and Gaylord in 1995, before relocating to Grayling in 1996.
“I’ve been here ever since,” Hraunfjord said.
Hraunfjord has three children: Hilary, Elisabet, and Benjamin. She opted to renew her green card, when required, in order to work and live in the United States.
Until late last year, becoming a citizen never crossed Hraunfjord’s mind.
“I was busy having kids and working, and I just renewed my card and kept going,” she said. “I could do everything except vote, and work for government, and do jury duty.”
But as the debate over immigration has become more controversial, Hraunfjord took the first steps to become a citizen in September.
“It just seems like things are up in the air,” she said. “I just figured I would apply and get my certificate, so I don’t have to worry about what’s going on.”
More importantly, Hraunfjord wanted to ensure she could be with her family. Benjamin, age 16, is a student at Grayling High School. Hilary works at Helen’s Hallmark in Gaylord. Elisabet lives in Montana, where her husband is stationed with the U.S. Air Force.
“My kids are here and they’re American and I want to make sure I can always be around,” Hraunfjord said.
Hraunfjord worked as a district manager for Blockbuster Video, covering stores in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. She has worked as team leader for Flo’s Hallmark for several years. Hraunfjord also sells sweaters, hats, and socks that she knits.
Hraunfjord has been deeply entrenched in the Grayling community. She is vice president of the Grayling Promotional Association and is in charge of the organization’s fashion show for a second year in a row. She is also a member of the Grayling Eagles Club and has been a team captain for the Crawford County Relay for Life for many years. Hraunfjord also volunteers for Grayling’s Michigan Main Street program.
Hraunfjord said she wants to see Grayling prosper again and is not content just sitting on the sidelines.
“I want the town to be good,” she said. “Instead of complain, I’d rather do something to help.”
As part of becoming a citizen, Hraunfjord had to be fingerprinted for a background check.
She was the given a book to study, which covered civics, U.S. history, and the government.
“This is what I was doing for my New Year’s festivities was studying,” said Hraunfjord, although she knew most of the information from putting her kids through school.
Hraunfjord went through an interview and test in Detroit on Jan. 4.
Hraunfjord said the lifestyles in Iceland, where she visits family as often as she can, and the U.S. are similar.
“I raised my kids here and they’re American, so it was kind of just a formality for me,” she said.
Hraunfjord was among a group of 78 immigrants who became U.S. citizens when she was at the ceremony to be sworn in and to receive her citizenship certificate. There were citizens from Germany and Norway, and other countries where citizens face hardships such as Korea, China, and Iraq.
“It was a lot of people of all ages. I would say it was teenagers all the way up to 90-year-old ladies that were getting sworn in,” she said. “That was pretty interesting. You could tell how it meant something to them.”