By Isidra Mencos
In August 2016, seven years after she came to the U.S. to reunite with her American fiancé, Marc, and later marry him, Cecilia became an American citizen. “It was one of the best days of my life,” recalls Cecilia. “The ceremony was beautiful. The judge said that the U.S. has talent coming from all over the world and that immigrants bring the best to this country. I felt so welcomed!”
Cecilia, previously a green-card holder, had been reluctant to consider U.S. citizenship. After she had her son Bruno, who is now 1 year old, it became a family priority, so they would never be apart in case of an emergency. Another factor that encouraged her to take this big step was the upcoming election. “It’s very scary to see the current politics of hate,” she says. “Before, I felt that if I became a US citizen it would be a treason to Mexico, but now I think that not voting in the U.S. election, if I have the opportunity to do so, is a treason to Mexico and the U.S.”
According to the American Immigration Council, there are over 8 million legal immigrants eligible for naturalization, but only around 800,000 complete the process every year. At $680 dollars for each adult, its cost is a significant hurdle. The fee, however, will only go up every year, and there are significant advantages to becoming a US citizen. Research has shown that being a U.S. citizen can improve your income, workforce productivity and social integration. For Cecilia, having a voice in the political process is also a huge incentive. “Latinos are a significant part of the population and we can make a difference in each election,” she asserts emphatically. “Becoming a citizen is the best way to have a say and to make a change. If you didn’t make it for this election, it doesn’t matter. There are a lot of elections coming up. Better start now the naturalization process, than never!”
Cecilia is very proud of her roots and plans to keep her Mexican citizenship and raise her son bicultural and bilingual. But her job as an online inventory planner for an American corporation and her marriage to a non-Spanish speaker, left her feeling a bit disconnected from her heritage. She was able to fill the gap when she joined the Latino Community Foundation’s Latinas Giving Circle of San Francisco, a philanthropic organization that invests in Latino-based grassroots non-profits. “Being part of this group of inspiring Latinas is like having my little bit of home in the U.S.,” explains Cecilia, “and it also connects me to my culture’s values. In Mexico there is such a big gap between poor and rich, that from a young age you’re taught to give back. The Giving Circle is the perfect way to do it, because my donations have more impact than if I grant them individually.” From her participation in the election, thanks to her brand new citizenship, to her philanthropic efforts, the Latino values of giving back and engaging with social change are shaping Cecilia’s public path.
Please register to vote and encourage others to do the same. We have 2 simple ways to register: register online by going to www.latinos-vote.com or text LATINOS to 384-387 to register! It only takes a few minutes.