José Argomaniz – a 57-year-old plasterer from Visalia – had a front-row seat Tuesday morning (May 16) to hear California Secretary of State Alex Padilla talk about the contributions to the United States made by people from all corners of the planet.
“Your generation and the next generation will continue to contribute to this nation,” said Padilla, the son of Mexican immigrants (his father worked 40 years as a cook in restaurants like Dennys and IHOP; his mother as a housecleaner).
“All those stories, all those contributions over the course of generations, that is what makes our country. What makes our country’s history. What makes our country’s future no matter what you hear on the television news every night.”
Argomaniz, who is recovering from injuries he suffered in a workplace accident, was among 975 people representing 57 nations who took part in the naturalization ceremony at the Fresno Convention Center. Padilla was the guest speaker.
It takes courage to come to a land where you don’t know a lot of people. Maybe you know some of the language, but not a lot. But you hope that a better future awaits you.
Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State
“He’s right. I wish I had the same opportunity in this beautiful country,” said Argomaniz, who called Padilla “blessed” to have risen to his current position.
The native of Valparaiso, Zacatecas, México, however, wasn’t complaining. He arrived in the U.S. when he was 13 years old, and decided to become a citizen because “this country is in my heart forever.”
“I feel like I’m part of this beautiful country,” said Argomaniz, a father of five. “This is where I feel my blood is, where I have my family roots.”
Argomaniz lived in Santa Ana when he first came to this country, and fell in love with the San Joaquín Valley upon visiting relatives.
New citizens like Argomaniz, said Padilla, have courage because at one point in their lives they decided to leave their friends and their home country “in pursuit of the American dream.”
“It takes courage to come to a land where you don’t know a lot of people. Maybe you know some of the language, but not a lot,” said Padilla. “But you hope that a better future awaits you.”
Padilla said some immigrants think they will return to their homeland, but after raising a family, buying a home, working and paying taxes “you recognize that your future is here.”
Those from México, who numbered 592, made up the majority of the new citizens. India was next with 103, and the Philippines third with 76.
“We all came in here from 57 countries, but we all leave here as United States citizens,” said Padilla. “Regardless of your journey, it took courage. I say congratulations!”
Padilla encouraged the newest citizens to register to vote and exercise that right at every election.
“You have a voice. That’s how our democracy works,” he said. “Whether your family has been here for generations or you just became a U.S. citizen, whether you’re rich or you’re not and you’re working hard to make ends meet, we all have an equal voice in the political process of our democracy.”
Padilla stressed that every election has consequences, so people should vote in all elections.
State and local elected officials, he said, have a greater say than federal lawmakers do in issues like education and health care.
Padilla presented Carolyn Lemay, widow of the late Henry Lemay, with a recognition in tribute to her late husband’s singing of the national anthem and ‘God Bless America’ at the naturalization ceremonies.
Where they came from
1. México, 592; 2. India, 103; 3. Philippines, 76; 4. El Salvador, 25; 5. Iran, 15; 6. Laos, 14; 7. Guatemala, 9; 7. Syria; 9. Thailand, 8; 9. Fiji, 8. Also: Argentina, 2; Colombia, 1; Nicaragua, 2; Panamá, 2; Perú 1.