Meet Carmen with The Literacy Connection
I came to Wisconsin 13 years ago. I was born in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico. I left behind my mom, brothers, nephews and other close relatives and dear friends and my job as a teacher. I was very excited to start my own family. Bruce and I got married a month and half after I got here. Right after we got married, Bruce completed the paperwork from the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services so I could be here legally and be able to work. Three months later, I obtained my social security number and my conditional permanent resident card.
Two years later, I got my permanent resident card, which is also known as the green card. As a permanent resident, you have most of the rights of U.S citizens. However, there are many reasons to consider U.S. citizenship. Citizenship offers new rights and privileges, but comes with equally important responsibilities.
There were so many reasons why I wanted to become a U.S. citizen.
As a citizen I can:
• Vote and serve on a jury.
• Apply for federal jobs.
• Keep my residency.
• Obtain government benefits.
• Become eligible for federal grants and scholarships.
There were several steps that I needed to follow to obtain my citizenship:
First, I had to fill out the application and mail it. Once they got it, they needed to process it and check if I was eligible to apply for citizenship.
Second, a month later the Department of Homeland Security sent me a letter in the mail, saying that I needed to go to their office in Milwaukee to have my fingerprints done. When I did this, they told me I would receive a letter with an appointment time for the interview. They gave me the study guide to study for the test. I actually started to study before I printed the study guide. I got it from the website www.uscis.gov. I also needed to study the citizenship application.
My son Jeremy helped me by asking me the questions and checking that I said the correct answers. Bonnie Sasse, my tutor, helped me a lot to get prepared for the test. There were 100 questions on the study guide. She asked me the 100 questions in different order. She typed the questions and then cut them individually and put them in a basket. She asked me to pick one from the basket; then I read the question and answered it. At other times, she asked me to write questions and then answers on a piece of paper. This way I practiced writing and reading the questions and the answers.
Another thing I did to prepare for the test was when I was driving I listened to the CD that came with the study guide.
Three weeks before the test, Bonnie watched several YouTube videos to find out what the interview was like. She pretended that she was the interviewer and asked me random questions from the study guide and the application. We practiced these for a couple weeks. It was fun to study this way. The last time we practiced, Bonnie dressed professionally and we did the whole process like we saw on the video. After these practices, I felt confident and ready for the test.
The day before my test, I had a great surprise at Prairie View Elementary School in Oregon where I work. The teacher that I work with told the principal and all the staff that I was going to take a test to become an American citizen so they had the idea of telling all the children and staff to dress in red, white and blue. They also had a potluck with American food like hot dogs, salads and chips and of course delicious desserts. I was so excited by what they did for me! It felt so great to be part of the Prairie View Elementary School family. They also made me a special crown that said “Carmen” on one side in red, silver and blue and on the other side had the American flag.
My naturalization interview was on October 14, 2015 at the Department of Homeland Security in Milwaukee. When I got there I was so nervous I was afraid I was going to forget the answers so I took a deep breath and then I thought that I was going to do just fine. When I was waiting in the waiting room with my husband and other candidates, I saw several people going in and others going out. After half an hour, I finally heard my name called by one representative. She guided me to her office, introduced herself and told me the process of the interview. First, she asked me personal information from the application and then she asked me 10 of the 100 questions from the study guide. Then she told me to write a sentence that she dictated to me and read another sentence that was on a piece of paper that she gave me.
Finally, she said that I did great and that I passed the test. I was super excited!
Three weeks later, I received a notice from the Department of Homeland Security that said the date for the oath ceremony and where it was going to be held.
The big day came on November 20th. My appointment was at 1:00 p.m. but I needed to be there at noon. My son Jeremy and my dear sister-in-law went with me. It was a very emotional ceremony. There were people from different countries and everybody looked happy and excited and so were their companions. When the ceremony was over, we were told to go back where the tables were to pick up the official document that proved that we were now American citizens.
Now as a U.S. citizen I will assume my responsibilities:
• Support and defend the constitution.
• Participate in the democratic process.
• Respect and obey federal, state and local laws.
• Pay income and other taxes honestly.
• Participate in the local community.
• Defend the country if the need should arise.
I am proud to be an American citizen. I love this country and the people. Since I got here 13 years ago, I have had the good fortune to meet a lot of people that have welcomed me and helped me to feel comfortable in this country. I have a job that I love, a family that supports me and great friends that I can count on for help when I need it. I am so thankful to be able to continue learning English through my tutor, Bonnie Sasse. She has been a great teacher and she always takes time out of her schedule to get prepared for the lessons. I cannot express enough how much I appreciate her help.