Juana, originally from Nicaragua, first came to the United States at the age of three, becoming a permanent resident in 2003. As the years passed, she noticed how immigration laws began to change. Even though she had been a legal permanent resident for many years, Juana feared a policy change could mean her deportation. When she read about migrant children being stripped away from their parents on the news, she was heavily motivated to begin her naturalization process. She thought about her own children and how she wanted a secure future for her family.
When asked about why she waited until now to get naturalized, Juana expressed that at first, she did not have the funds to go through with the citizenship process. Additionally, attaining her citizenship was not something Juana was worried about because the immigration laws felt stable at the time.
On January 14th, 2020, Juana received her United States citizenship. For her, getting naturalized meant that she would be able to stay in the United States without fearing that she could be separated from her family due to policy or administration changes. For Juana, citizenship meant job security and being able to provide her children a comfortable life. As a naturalized citizen, she knows that she can obtain better jobs and have access to more opportunities.
This year, Juana is planning to vote and have her voice counted. She expressed that the assistance she received through the New American Workforce program and DC Mayor’s Citizenship Fund was a blessing and that it helped her a lot through the process. Juana works for the DC Government and tells us how her job makes her feel valued. As an employee of the District of Columbia Public Schools, she feels treated as an individual and not as a statistical number. Juana has been an employee with DCPS for almost twenty years and she is grateful that they helped facilitate her citizenship process, saying how it is “the best gift” she has ever received.
Juana encourages everyone who is currently a legal permanent resident to apply for U.S. citizenship. She cautions that with new presidential administrations, their biases towards immigration can change the laws, and individuals who were once welcomed to the United States could be turned away. “By attaining your citizenship, you are securing your future and that of your family”, says Juana.
The National Immigration Forum would like to thank Yesenia Gutierrez, Integration Programs intern, for capturing this story.