New American Stories
Flag Day commemorates the day in 1777 that the Second Continental Congress adopted our flag. Every day of the year, New Americans take the Oath of Allegiance during naturalization ceremonies across the country and adopt the American flag as their own.
On Flag Day 2012, the National Partnership for New Americans
launches New American Stories, an online series of images and stories highlighting some of the people our Become a Citizen Now program has helped naturalize and turn into active and engaged U.S. citizens. Thanks to the Partnership's work, New Americans across the country are speaking out and getting involved, will vote in this next election, and are committed to working for a stronger and more inclusive democracy.
Below are some stories from New Americans, including their hopes for their families and the future now that they are U.S. citizens. They come from all over the world and now live in Washington State or Washington, D.C., Miami, Nashville, Denver, Salem, Oregon, and many other cities - wherever the Partnership is mobilizing immigrants for integration and transformative social change. Please share your story with us! Contact Charlie McAteer with questions at email@example.com.
Miriam was forced to flee her native Honduras in fear for her life because of her work as a union organizer. She was granted political asylum after a long battle, and couldn’t wait to become a citizen of the country that offered her safe haven. However, she was struggling to support her family, couldn’t afford legal help, and was afraid to apply without a lawyer’s help because she feared making a mistake and being deported.
It was then that she discovered the Washington New Americans (WNA) program and attended a Citizenship Day clinic. The volunteer attorneys helped her fill out her citizenship application and apply to have the application fee waived. Then she practiced English and civics every day and every night. On Valentine’s Day of this year, she passed both tests, took her oath as a U.S. citizen, and also celebrated her 25th wedding anniversary!
She says that as a U.S. citizen, she can now apply for better jobs, including government jobs. "I've dreamed about serving the public in some meaningful way," Miriam says.
For Miriam, becoming a citizen wasn't her final goal. She began helping answer the WNA Citizenship Hotline and spreading the word in her community. She continues practicing her English and is researching more about issues and candidates for the 2012 election. “I can't wait to vote!”
Ann (pictured on the left) has lived in the U.S. since 1967. “All the rest of my family are American citizens,” she explains in a faint Scottish brogue, “we’re the last.” She brought her eldest daughter with her to the Washington New Americans Citizenship Day in Bellingham, WA, because it was the right time for both of them to become American citizens.
“It’s hard to complain about anything when you don’t vote,” she laughs, but quickly becomes serious, “we live in a country that we love. We’ve loved this country forever, we’d probably die for it, but we’re just not citizens.”
They both agree, “It would be a shame if these things were taken away.”
Yong Hak Cho
Yong Hak Cho, 72, was born in Korea and came to the United States in 2005. He became a citizen because he wanted the right to vote and to participate in U.S. politics.
The Korean Resource Center, affiliate of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (http://nakasec.org/blog/), helped him fill out and process his citizenship application form. As a citizen, he wants to advocate for issues he cares about most, like asking Congress to pass the DREAM Act.
Celina moved to the United States from Jalisco, Mexico 18 years ago in order to find better opportunities for herself and her family. Becoming a permanent resident was a difficult process and took thousands of dollars.
Now, with the encouragement of her son, she is ready to fulfill her dream of becoming a citizen so that she can have more opportunities and can vote in the next election. Celina says that the naturalization process is “very difficult, and it’s not easy to get help.”
Seizing the opportunity to receive free help, she attended a Become a Citizen Now clinic, hosted by the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, and is excited to move forward in the citizenship process.
Amalia fell in love and moved to the United States, where she became a Legal Permanent Resident. Amalia was the first one in line at TIRRC’s April 1, 2012 workshop and so became the first community member who received this service.
Amalia, a hard working woman and mother of an 8-year-old boy, is ready to become a citizen in order to fully participate in the civic life of the U.S. Amalia found out about TIRRC's Become a Citizen Now program and just couldn’t miss the opportunity to get assistance in completing all of the paperwork necessary for her naturalization.
Sara is one of TIRRC’s community members from Saint Philip’s Catholic Church that benefited from the Become a Citizen Now Assistance Workshop on April 1, 2012. Although she was missing some of the information necessary to apply on that day, she came to the following workshop in May with all of the necessary information: ready and excited to apply!
After 40 years of being a permanent resident, she was finally able to apply for citizenship with a little bit of help from TIRRC's Become a Citizen Now program. Sara is thankful to all of the volunteers that assisted her with not only her naturalization paper work but also with submitting her fee waiver which will help cover her application cost - and helped make all the difference in her seeking citizenship.
Marie Paul, came to the U.S. from Haiti in 1991 and has been a resident for 20 years. Marie tried to apply twice for her citizenship, but couldn’t finish the process.
This time, Marie wanted to make sure she did it properly. At a citizenship clinic hosted by Florida New Americans, she received legal advice and was assisted with filling out her application form.
Miriam Godspiel was born in Argentina and became a permanent resident in 2006. She wanted to apply for citizenship as soon as she was eligible, and the Florida New Americans Citizenship Clinic was just the opportunity that she was looking for.
“I want to do this basically because of my son, who was born here. As a citizen, I will be able to have better work and, therefore, offer him better opportunities,” said Miriam while she waited for her exit interview to double check if she had all of her papers in order. “I want to fulfill the American dream.”
A woman who received assistance at a Citizenship Clinic held by Causa Oregon in Salem, OR said she strives for a better future with great opportunities after obtaining her citizenship. “I am excited that I got this great opportunity and help in completing my application for citizenship that I am going to encourage my husband to do the same,” she said. “I know by obtaining my citizenship I will have a better future in this country.”
Juana is one of the many who left El Salvador due to Civil War violence. Originally from San Miguel in El Salvador, Juana finished college and graduated with a Secretarial degree. Escaping the violence in El Salvador, Juana found herself in the U.S; her dream country but yet full of people she didn’t know. For 30 days, she was detained at the borders by Immigration Officers. After a cousin paid the bond, she was released. Outside the jail, “the challenges didn’t stop there. Life was not the same, I had left behind my entire family and yet I was staying with strangers,” she recalled.
Juana was granted legal status through the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA). With time, she integrated herself into U.S. society and had her two children here. She no longer wanted to be called an “Alien,” but “Citizen.” When asked what being a citizen would mean, she replied, “It means acceptance and recognition as one more citizen. I feel like I matter, like I am important and that my presence in this country has a meaning.” During her oath ceremony, Juana expressed her honor and pride to be an American citizen. With her new status, she was hopeful of a better life and better opportunities.
Adolfo came to the United States at the age of 19; he was born and raised in Sensutepeque Cabanos, El Salvador with five siblings. At the age of six, his parents separated and his mother came to the U.S. Adolfo finished high school and decided to leave El Salvador to search for a job and reunite with his mother in the U.S.
In the U.S, Adolfo spent his first five months at his mother’s apartment, feeling sad, lonely and homesick; he missed his girlfriend, family, and friends in El Salvador. Even more hurtful, he couldn’t make friends here because he didn’t speak any English and his chances of finding a job were narrow. With all these challenges standing in his way, Adolfo could only get difficult jobs, paying very little money. To help improve his English, he began attending night classes; better English meant a better job. With two sons and recently married to his long-time girlfriend, the next step for Adolfo was his citizenship. “By becoming a citizen, I have the peace in mind that I will always be there for my kids and never be deported."
Adolfo passed his citizenship test and took the Oath of Allegiance on June 8, 2011 and is now an American citizen.
Marco was a Citizenship Class student at CASA de Maryland. His story is similar to other young professionals who come to the United States in the hopes of a better life. Leaving his native Peru with his wife and their 5-year old daughter, Marco found a job as a construction worker in Florida. Time elapsed; Marco divorced his wife and remarried a U.S citizen. He started thinking about his dream of becoming a citizen.
After moving to Maryland, the couple welcomed a daughter. “Diana, my daughter, is my life,” he said. Opportunities knocked at his door, as he started working for one of the most important food corporations in Maryland. His life was finally going the way he wanted but his English was very poor and interacting with others was a challenge. By taking English classes at Montgomery College, Marco felt more confident. He had a reason to take the next step: becoming an American citizen.
He enjoyed every day in his citizenship class, as he learned about American history and civics and practiced his conversational skills. “By the time, I had my citizenship interview, I felt totally confident in my abilities to answer questions correctly.” But the most emotional moment was the Oath of Allegiance ceremony. “I felt that the long journey had a happy end."
“My name is Lingran Xu, I was born in ShangHai, China, and moved to the U.S. with my parents at the age of 17. I became a U.S. citizen earlier this year, and got my U.S. passport right before the 2012 Chinese New Year. My story is very simple. My parents, just like many other middle-aged Chinese parents, decided to leave behind their well-paying jobs in order to take me to the U.S. for a better life. Our first year of life in the U.S. was pretty tough on us. My parents spent most of their time desperately looking for jobs that matched their work experience and background in China. And I was college aged and in need of a higher education. During those moments, we all felt lost; not knowing what direction to proceed in order to fulfill our so called 'American dreams.'
As the days passed, both of my parents finally found stable jobs in the U.S. I had finished college and had gained experience from holding several jobs. Our time had finally come: we decided to become U.S. citizens. I had heard about the New Americans Initiative program at ICIRR while volunteering at the Chinese American Service League. The program really helped us on our way to become U.S. citizens. My mom and I went to one of the workshops held, and they did everything for us. Four months later, we all became citizens! So thank you to the New Americans Initiative for making my life so much easier during the citizenship application process.
People may wonder why we wanted to became citizens so badly. The reason is that we wanted to have more opportunities that would help us live better lives. We want to be able to give back to our community and to help new immigrants. Since I become a citizen, I joined the agency CASL to work under the New Americans Initiative program. I joined the voting committee to work as an election judge on Election Day. I deeply enjoy doing things that help build our community and allow people to live better lives."
Mr. Dagobert is 70 years old and came to this country because of his son who brought him. He became a legal permanent resident in May 18, 2005 and his son insisted he should naturalize once he completed the 5 years to become eligible. Almost every member in the Dagobert family has become a U.S. citizen, and Ophila didn't want to be left behind.
Father and son went through the entire process during a Florida New Americans Citizenship Clinic, to make sure that Mr. Dagobert soon becomes a Florida New American.