FRESNO -- Gilbert Rivera has defended the United States as a reservist in the Navy.
Now, he will be able to determine the country's leaders after becoming the last of 10 children born to immigrants from Zacatecas, México to gain U.S. citizenship.
"It is a great honor to come here on U.S. Flag Day," said Rivera last Thursday after reciting the oath of citizenship along with 882 others at the Fresno Convention Center.
"It's been like eight years in the making," said Rivera, an apprentice technician with AT&T in Fresno.
Rivera, 39, signed up with the military after the 9/11 attacks.
"It was a duty of mine that I had to do as a citizen," he said.
Citizenship, along with earning the right to vote, also "opens up doors to more opportunities," said Rivera, whose parents brought him to the U.S. when he was three years old.
"You don't want to stay permanent residents," said Rivera, the last of five siblings to become naturalized. The other five were born in the U.S.
Those are words that make Mari-Carmen Jordan smile.
"I am proud to welcome you as the newest generation of American citizens," said Jordan, the Sacramento district director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "You are a unique thread in the fabric of our rich tapestry."
Jordan herself is a naturalized citizen.
She was born in México City and brought to the U.S. when she was six months old.
"My mother did not include us in her application for naturalization," said Jordan, who served five years as USCIS deputy director at the U.S. embassy in México City before taking the Sacramento position.
"When I was going through the interview process, I said, 'I want this job. I like this job,'" said Jordan, who became naturalized in 1984.
Her three brothers and one sister have also become U.S. citizens.
"I wanted to have a voice," said Jordan. "I wanted to be able to vote and obtain all of the benefits that are available for u.s. citizens. But the most importnat was to vote."
Jordan said a naturalized citizen doesn't lose a country.
"The ties are the language, the culture which you never leave behind," she said. "The culture is the richness, and combining it with the United States and the culture here I feel I have something to contribute."
Thursday's ceremony, which was administered by U.S. magistrate court judge Gary Austin, included poet Michael McMahon reading his poem 'Crossings.'
Among the 419 applicants from México, which contributed the largest group of new U.S. citizens, was KFTV Channel 21 news anchor Francisco J. López Mireles and his wife, Ireri Meza de López.
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