Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Leading up to Citizenship Day, a group of recently naturalized Americans shared their personal stories on how citizenship has changed their lives during a press call today. For a recording of today’s call, please visit here.
Each new American showed that the last step of becoming a citizen brings about critical advantages such as new educational opportunities, increased access to benefits such as healthcare, or simply an easier time practicing their religion.
“I became a naturalized citizen in the month of February,” said Guadalupe Guerrero, 25, of Compton, Calif. “My father had been a permanent resident since 1987 and, once we convinced him to become a citizen, his new citizenship sped up our naturalization process. The peace of mind from knowing you are safe is priceless. The opportunities from obtaining a better education and better jobs are also great.”
Jinzhi Cang, 73, of Houston, who naturalized Sept. 25, 2013, decided to become a citizen so she could feel valuable to U.S. society. “It has been a year since I became a U.S. citizen, and one of the things I see myself doing is voting,” she said. “Before I became a citizen, I saw myself as an outsider. Now I feel like a part of society. I have a voice. I can vote and elect an individual who can truly help and protect the people.”
For Thanh Bui, a 79-year-old new citizen also from Houston, the decision to become a citizen was a life-saving change: “I found out I was diagnosed with liver cancer. Had I not had my citizenship, I might have not had the Medicare and Medicaid benefits I needed to be able to help me through the stages of my liver cancer.”
“I cannot say just how much citizenship means to me. The International Rescue Committee has been such a huge help in earning my citizenship,” added Zoreh Ravani, a newly naturalized citizen from New York City. “I have the power to vote here. I can get my American passport and travel to any country I want to go without any restriction. I can freely practice the religion I want to, which I wouldn’t have in my own country of Iran.”
All four new Americans thanked the New Americans Campaign and affiliated organizations such as Boat People SOS (Houston) and the Chinese Community Center (Houston), for helping them complete their citizenship applications.
“Since 2011, the New Americans Campaign has naturalized more than 120,000 citizens. We have saved aspiring citizens and their families more than $85 million in USCIS fees,” noted Vanessa Sandoval, Immigration Legal Services Program Director for SIREN (Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network) in San Jose, Calif., the lead organization for the New Americans Campaign in San Jose. “Most of our communities are unaware of the resources available to help them apply for citizenship — and the many benefits one can gain as a new American.”