On Saturday June 10th, East Bay Naturalization in partnership with the City of Hayward and the New Americans Campaign held a citizenship workshop where we helped people complete their citizenship applications and if eligible, the fee waiver as well. It was a successful day has we helped over 100 move closer to becoming U.S. citizens.
We had the opportunity to sit down with several participants where they shared their personal experience immigrating to the United States in honor of immigrant heritage month and what this process means to them.
Yalitza, from Mexico, shared with a volunteer the long immigration process she has gone through since arriving at a young age:
“Well I came here when I was 6 years old, as I was growing up I went through the whole immigration process and it just so happened to be that they messed up with my application so it took many more years than it should have so I actually got my residency right before I started college. So I got these letters and everything but I was having issues with schools because I didn’t have it [residency] yet to so they weren’t able to offer me financial aid packages. But it was like a miracle because it came that summer before I was going to start [college] and so now I’m here trying to become a citizen.”
Yalitza was asked to share her reasons for applying for U.S. citizenship.
“Well to be honest, becoming or not becoming a US citizen wasn’t really important to me. Nationality is… First I am human so it didn’t really have any pressure to become a citizen. But with everything that is going on right now and my green card will expire next year I figured I would apply for citizenship. And I was practically raised here so I do have roots here.”
Yalitza went on to speak about her dual identity and the struggle of identifying as Mexican while being raised in the U.S. When she was asked what becoming an American citizen means to her she explained:
“I have mixed feelings because I am human first. I have always considered myself Mexican but at the same time I know I’m not just Mexican, I’m Mexican American even though I don’t usually call myself a Mexican American. So to me it’s a piece of paper but I feel that maybe at the same time I feeling like a somewhat don’t belong here so maybe that piece of paper will make a statement that I do [belong here].”
We are thankful to Yalitza and all those who were willing to open up and share their personal stories on the path to become U.S. citizens. These journeys are rarely straightforward as Yalitza demonstrated with the difficulty she experienced in getting her residency. Good luck to all those in the naturalization!