Did you hear about the 64-year-old woman who wanted to become a U.S. citizen?
Dan Riding – who capped a 40-year career as a federal immigration worker as field director of the Fresno Citizenship and Immigration Services office – can tell you.
“When she was told about the (oath’s) requirement of protecting and defending the United States, she said, ‘I don’t know if I can pass your Army physical, but I can read, write and answer the phone, and I’ll do anything you want me to.’”
That elicited a round of laughter from 962 of the country’s newest U.S. citizens who took the oath of naturalization Tuesday morning (May 15) at the Fresno Convention Center.
“That’s the kind of attitude that we like to see in people,” said Riding.
Riding returned to a familiar scene (he retired in 2012 after watching more than 300,000 immigrants become U.S. citizens) as the keynote speaker for the monthly ceremony.
He used plenty of humor to get his point across.
Riding spoke about a woman named María Guadalupe who was expecting a baby at about the same time as the naturalization ceremony. She was sent a notice to appear at 9 a.m. for the 11 a.m. ceremony.
“At 10:45, we put her packet aside as a probable no-show,” said Riding. “We didn’t expect her anyway.”
Five minutes before the ceremony’s start, she showed up.
“She had the best excuse ever: That morning at 7 a.m., she delivered a baby boy at Community Hospital just a mile from here,” said Riding. “She then convinced her husband, against his will, to bring her here to the ceremony.”
Riding said the woman took the oath of citizenship, then 20 minutes later was headed back to the hospital “with the certificate of naturalization clutched tightly in her hand. She was proud to be an American!”
His point: “We hope you will be just as proud to be an American.”
Riding, a BYU graduate who began his federal immigration career in El Paso in 1972, spoke about his prowess in apprehending Mexican and Salvadorans who crossed the border illegally.
We hope you will be just as proud to be an American.
Dan Riding, former field director for Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Fresno
“But, I couldn’t catch Jamaicans because they were too fast for me,” said Riding, who noted that Jamaicans dominate the Olympic 100-meter race.
Riding told the new citizens they no longer have to worry when they see a “green bus that says Border Patrol on it.”
Riding reminded the new citizens that they have every right as any person born in the U.S. “except that you can’t serve as president or vice president.”
He said naturalized citizens should register to vote, regardless of who they vote for. And, if they get a notice to report for jury duty, “do report.”
His last bit of advice: “When you go home, don’t do like I do. Drive the speed limit. The point is, we want you to be good citizens; and, we’re glad to have you here.”
Where they came from
1. México, 579; 2. India, 95; 3. Philippines, 66; 4. El Salvador, 27; 5. Iran, 20; 6. Laos, 17; 7. (tie), Thailand, Vietnam; 9. China, 9; 10. Guatemala, 8. Also: Argentina, 4; Colombia, 4; Cuba, 1; Ecuador, 3; Nicaragua, 1; Perú, 7.