If you have kept up with my writing, (which I greatly appreciate), you'll notice I do not really like talking about anything political or controversial; that's mainly because I do not want to spark online battles between friends and family who have very distinct beliefs. In this case, however, I felt the need to share how big it is to become a US citizen in today's world.
To some this may not seem like a big deal or anything worth highlighting, if you are one of those people, do not worry because I was definitely one of those up to the very point I was sitting in my induction ceremony. In my head, I always told myself "I'm still and will forever be a proud Mexican - why would I want to be a US citizen? Maybe to get more job opportunities but that's about it I guess…"
Even when other peers asked me if I was excited to become a US citizen, I would answer something along those lines, but what could have possibly happened in the 3-hour ceremony that made me change my perspective on this? Well, when I got to the place where the ceremony took place, I was told to sit with the people whose ceremony supposedly began at exactly 12:02 pm, as it said in my appointment letter.
Once sitting there, I took a close look at my surroundings. I was in a big auditorium that it had yet to be filled up, however, based on the number of seats with envelopes on the first floor, I knew it would eventually fill up a bit. In the second floor of the auditorium, there were hundreds of people already, who later became thousands. Those people were the friends and family of the newly to-be US citizens.
That was were my parents, my aunt, and my grandma sit. To my left, there was a Mexican woman, like me (except I'm a man). To my right, there were two gentlemen, a Brazilian from Sao Paulo and a Dutchman from Amsterdam. Behind me, there was an Asian looking lady, whose nationality I was unsure of until the moment they announced it later on in the ceremony, and in front of me, there was a couple who seemed to look Arabic to me.
Despite all of these differences of backgrounds and ethnicities, all these people surrounding me had one thing in common... They were genuinely excited about what it was about to happen. But even to this point I could not really sympathize with them or see why they were all so thrilled. It was not until they all began conversing that it suddenly hit me.
For about an hour and a half, before the ceremony began, they all shared their incredible background stories to each other. From some, I heard the incredible coming of age stories, from others I heard how tragic circumstances turned back around the moment they stepped here. Others shared how they had to flee their home country, come in as refugees, learn the language, adapt to the new culture and make a living off of nothing. Others told me about how they came alone to the US in search of opportunities that were not available in their home countries, and I also heard how some had to basically abandon their families in order to come here to work and provide for them from the US.
After listening to all these truly mesmerizing stories I submerged myself in my own thoughts and began thinking, "Wow, what have I done other than taking a history test and sign some papers from the application form?" Even though I did go through somewhat of a "conversion point" because I did have to learn the language and a few other things, I was fortunate enough to never ever experience any of the hardships all these people had to go through in order to get to this very point.
That's when I realized that being there with all those people was actually a huge deal. I was in a room full of people who for the most part came from nothing, worked for years to be able to stay in The States long enough to make a living and later on succeed. And that success, they all managed to obtain through the years was essentially embodied by the citizenship they all received that day with me. That citizenship was the reward for all their hard work, dedication and tireless want to live a better life.
On that day, June 13th, 2019, 540 heroes representing 81 different countries became citizens with me. As the judge said in his commencement speech, "Be honored and proud, not only because you are now US citizens, but also because you are legal immigrants."