When Jesús Martínez looked out Tuesday morning at the sea of 953 faces belonging to the newest U.S. citizens, the naturalized American couldn’t help but think about the tens of thousands of qualified residents who could have reveled in the half-hour ceremony.
Martínez, who became a U.S. citizen 2½ years ago at the same location with his wife, said there are almost 58 thousand Fresno County residents who are eligible to become U.S. citizens.
He rattled off the statistics for other counties: more than 54,000 in Kern County, more than 9,000 in Kings County, 12,475 in Madera County, and, more than 35,000 in Tulare County.
“Some don’t know how to go about the naturalization process, others have a language problem, and others are intimidated at having to take those tests,” said Martínez, a consultant with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. “Unfortunately, some of these residents give up on applying.
“It is not easy, but you have done it!”
Becoming a U.S. citizen will provide you with more peace of mind and community. Research also shows that, on average, new U.S. citizens have higher incomes and better standards of living.
Martínez, who is originally from Michoacán, México, called the new citizens representing 50 countries “role models.”
“You are a source of inspiration for other immigrants,” said Martínez, the invited speaker for the naturalization ceremony at the Fresno Convention Center. “Each of you has proven that it can be done.”
With the change in status comes responsibilities, he told them.
“Please help us get as many people to apply for naturalization as possible, so they (too) can enjoy the rights and privileges of being a U.S. citizen,” Martínez implored.
“Becoming a U.S. citizen will provide you with more peace of mind and community,” he said. “Research also shows that, on average, new U.S. citizens have higher incomes and better standards of living.”
Martínez added that “American democracy requires our active participation.”
“Democracy suffers and becomes weakened when people are prohibited or become apathetic,” he said.
Reading a passage from the 1946 book ‘America is in the Heart’ by Filipino author Carlos Bulosan, Martínez reminded them that “America is not a land of one race or one class of man. America is not a land, but an institution. America is a philosophy. We are America.”
Those words rang true for Verónica Tista, a 28-year-old native of Santa María Tintú, Oaxaca, México, who came to this country when she was 1.
“I think it motivates us to be more open individuals and to help others,” said Tista, whose husband missed the ceremony because of work. She is mother to children ages 8 and 3.
Tista, who hopes her new status will help her husband, admitted the naturalization process “is difficult, along with a lot of little requirements.”
She was sleepless the night before her naturalization interview. “I probably slept four hours,” she said.
The interview went well, said Tista. “Me tocó un good guy.”
Tista, a volunteer with the promotora program at the Darin M. Camarena Health Centers, is also a part-time bootleg instructor.
Tulare couple Manuel and María Robles became citizens on the same day.
“We’ve been here for 40 years and all our children were born here,” said María about their decision to become naturalized. The couple has five children.
“We came for a better opportunity and a better life,” said Manuel, a 74-year-old retired farmworker. Both are originally from Guadalajara, Jalisco, México.
Waterford resident Nayelia González, 27, is the mother of two with another expected in August. The native of Colima, México also became a U.S. citizen.
“Because it is very beautiful,” said Reedley’s Nicolosa García about becoming a citizen of the U.S. She worked in a packinghouse before becoming disabled.
Where our new U.S. citizens come from
1. México, 566; 2. India, 111; 3. Philippines, 80; 4. China, 22; 5. El Salvador, 21; 6. Laos, 16; 7. Vietnam 14; 8. Yemen, 10; 9. Guatemala, 8; 10. Canada 7.