The message Livingston city manager José Antonio Ramírez wanted to share with those Valley residents who became U.S citizens at the Tuesday’s naturalization ceremony was how important it was to exercise their right to vote as well as civic engagement.
A total of 961 people from 51 countries including Angola, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, México, Nicaragua, Perú, y Venezuela, raised their right hand to pledge allegiance to the United States during the citizenship ceremony on June 13 at the at the Fresno Convention Center.
“You guys just accomplished a very important moment,” said the 45-years-old guest speaker as he congratulated them.
“You are bestow with a gift, but this gift come with a responsibility,” Ramírez said, who is originally from Coalcoman, Mexico.
Regardless of party affiliation, Ramírez urged the new U.S. citizens to register to vote.
Ramírez said many people gave their time and even their lives for people to have the right to vote.
“Why is important to vote?” Ramírez said, adding that “if you wan to change the very fabric of your community, you have to exercise your vote.”
“Your vote is your voice,” Ramírez said. “If you don’t vote, is like you are voting for something you don’t want.”
Ramírez added that beside exercising the right to vote, it is also very important that it goes hand and hand with civic engagement.
Ramírez said as city manager he has witnessed how low civic engagement participation is in many cities and towns.
“Civic engagement is very important,” said Ramírez, who became a U.S citizen in 1994.
He wanted to highlight that “diversity is our strength” and he was proud to see a representation of the world in the 961 people that just pledge allegiance to the U.S.
He said all together they can make a great difference.
María Angela Cruz Mejía, 94, of Delano, was the oldest of the 961 new citizens.
Cruz Mejía, who is originally from El Salvador, came to the ceremony with her son, Manuel Cruz, and granddaughter, Angela Cruz, who sat next to her grandmother during the ceremony.
“I feel very happy,” said Cruz Mejía in Spanish. She has been living in the U.S. for more than 20 years.
She planned to celebrate becoming a U.S citizen by praying the rosary.
Bakersfield resident Sonia Chávez, 28, was lucky to have made it to the ceremony on time. She got a flat tire on Highway 99 near Visalia and she worried she wouldn’t make it on time.
The native of Michoacán, México made it 40 minutes late, but discovered there were will still people waiting in line to register. The ceremony started almost 30 minutes late.
For Chávez becoming a U.S. citizen was full of emotions.
“It is an achievement, a relief, pride,” said Chávez, who came to the U.S. in 1995.
As she walked through the doors to find her seat in the naturalization ceremony, Chávez felt a huge relief and full of emotions.
María G. Ortiz-Briones: 559-441-6782
Where they came from
1. México, 637; 2. India, 88; 3. Philippines, 44; 4. El Salvador, 27; 5. Iran, 18; 6. Fiji, 14; 7. Guatemala, 12; 8. Vietnam, 10; 9. Laos, 9; 10. China, 7. Also: Colombia, 3; Costa Rica, 1; Cuba, 1; Ecuador, 1; Honduras, 2; Nicaragua, 5; Perú, 6; Venezuela, 3.