Pablo, originally from Mexico, came to the United States at the age of 25 in search of a better life. In the United States, Pablo found a stable job, appreciating the newfound sense of security it provided his family. Pablo has lived in this country for more than 20 years and now has a family, with his wife Angela.
Pablo waited for almost two decades, before deciding to apply for citizenship because he did not feel ready. Every time Pablo thought about naturalization, he would tell himself that he would apply the following year, getting stuck in an infinite loop where he kept postponing his citizenship. Pablo hesitated to start his naturalization as he was intimidated by the process and worried about having enough money for monthly expenses like rent and putting food on the table.
Pablo expressed how thankful he was for the New American Workforce program as it provided him the confidence and preparation, he desperately needed to pursue his citizenship process. Thanks to the support of the DC Mayor’s Citizenship Fund and the legal assistance offered through this program, both Pablo and his wife, Angela, another program participant, recently received their naturalization and were able to vote in this year’s election.
Since becoming a citizen, Pablo expressed that he feels more integrated and part of American culture. He feels empowered because he can finally utilize his voice and vote during elections. He shared that voting is a civic duty that one must exercise. When Pablo looks back to his personal experience in gaining citizenship, he reminds himself about the privilege that he was afforded and hopes that everyone that can vote, will go out and vote. Given the uncertainty in immigration policy in recent years, Pablo wanted to be part of the change and make sure that his vote meant something to support his community, including those who still cannot vote.
One of Pablo’s regrets is waiting over 20 years to start his naturalization process. He expresses that, “If you are in a position to apply for citizenship but hesitate to start because of how intimidating the process looks, you should start with courses and workshops.” Pablo admits that the workshops that the New American Workforce program provided made a big difference and enabled him to feel prepared, confident, and ready for the citizenship exam.
The National Immigration Forum would like to thank Yesenia Gutierrez, Integration Programs intern, for capturing this story.