Archive for Monday, September 17, 2007

American dream comes true for 100 new citizens

21-year journey for family from Guatemala ends

September 17, 2007


Kansas University graduates Aida Garcia, foreground, her brother, Estuardo, center, and their father, Hector, are sworn in as U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony at the Dole Institute of Politics. The Garcia family came to the United States from Guatemala as political refugees seeking asylum in 1986. They were among 100 people taking the oath of citizenship on Monday.

Kansas University graduates Aida Garcia, foreground, her brother, Estuardo, center, and their father, Hector, are sworn in as U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony at the Dole Institute of Politics. The Garcia family came to the United States from Guatemala as political refugees seeking asylum in 1986. They were among 100 people taking the oath of citizenship on Monday.

The U.S. has 100 new citizens

A standing-room-only crowd filled the Dole Institute of Politics this morning. Under the shadow of the American flag, it was the biggest moment in most of their lives. As 6News reporter Jonathan Kealing shows us, the United States has 100 new citizens. Enlarge video

One by one they stood up, heard their names called out and then clearly announced the country from where they'd come.





And on it went 96 more times Monday morning, at the end of which 30 countries had been named. But that was just the beginning of the end of the journey for the 100 immigrants who became United States citizens in a ceremony at the Dole Institute of Politics on Kansas University's West Campus.

For the Garcia family, it was a journey that began June 10, 1986, when they arrived in the United States after leaving Guatemala with what Hector Garcia described as the holy trinity:

"We had $3,000, three kids and three pieces of luggage," he said.

Not as bad as having just the clothes on their back, but still not much with which to start a new life in the United States.

Hector Garcia was a university professor in Guatemala. Because of a violent civil war and his position in academia, he felt his only option was to pursue asylum in the United States. With his wife and three kids, all under age 8, they moved to Chicago. A few years later, they settled in Kansas City, where Hector went to work for Hallmark Cards.

"It was a very hard adjustment," Hector Garcia said. "We've worked very hard to maintain a standard of living."

Garcia eventually earned a degree at KU, as did his son, Estuardo Garcia, and his daughter Aida Garcia-Franks. It was perhaps fitting then that the three, joined by Olga Garcia, Hector's wife, and Gabby Garcia, his other daughter, became citizens in a ceremony at KU. Olga and Gabby Garcia became citizens a few months ago.

"I think it's very fitting that it all happened here," said Garcia-Franks, who works in the university's Office of Multicultural Affairs. "KU has been a really big part of my life."

Garcia-Franks actually moved to the United States before her family, coming in 1985 with her grandparents.

"On our way here, I remember staying at Best Westerns," she said. "It was a big adjustment. I didn't have my family with me, but also, it was a completely different culture."

The Garcias and the 97 other citizens-to-be filed into the Dole Institute by 8:30 a.m. The ceremony was set to start at 10, but no one seemed the least bit upset to spend 90 minutes waiting.

For many, including Garcia-Franks, this was merely a fraction of the time they'd spent waiting to become citizens.

"It's been a long, hard process," she said. "It's very exciting. It's also a big relief. It's been a long time coming."

The family heard encouragement from KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway, U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and John Lungstrum, the chief judge of the federal district court in Kansas who presided over the naturalization ceremony.

"New citizens today follow very much the same road to citizenship as those who came before them over the past two centuries," Lungstrum explained to the standing-room-only crowd. "Through our combined efforts, I believe and trust we can make this an even better country."

Then it was time for the oath of citizenship to be administered, the moment the Garcias had spent 21 years preparing for. All together, they renounced their allegiance to Guatemala and declared their loyalty to the United States. Joining them were the rest of the 100 new American citizens.

More than one person in the crowd paused to wipe away a tear or clear a throat. Moran would later tell the audience that he believed every American should see the ceremony he witnessed.

And with that, it was over. One hundred new American citizens walked out of the Dole Institute doors.

"This makes my mission complete," Hector Garcia said. "It makes me a big, proud papa."


Husrrrkr 10 years ago

Congratulations to our newest citizens! My mother was an immigrant from Germany after WWII. She had a difficult journey leading to her becoming a citizen of the US, but as I grew up she made sure I knew how lucky I was to be living in a free country.

Susan Mangan 10 years ago

Congratulation to the new citizens! A citizenship ceremony is a moving thing to witness and reaffirms my pride in this country. All of the debates about illegals don't apply to these people who worked hard and honestly to meet the requirements to become Americans. They are a credit and asset to our country.

craigers 10 years ago

This is a great story. Congrats on becoming citizens in the US.

imagold 10 years ago

Dang, I hate to start my day in tears. Congratulations to these 100 new citizens of our beautiful United States of America. What a shining example these parents have been to their children: Do it the right way. Just look at those beaming faces.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years ago

It's pretty easy to sit at your computer and tell someone in a desperate situation that they should just "do it the right way." Of course, "doing it the right way" merely means the 99.9% of those wishing to emigrate here will never find decent jobs at home because of neoliberal doctrines such as NAFTA, CAFTA and their resulting sweatshop economies-- all enforced by graduates of the US military's School of the Americas' torture classrooms.

Flap Doodle 10 years ago

Good morning, Captain Bringdown (alias bozo).

OldEnuf2BYurDad 10 years ago

Captain Bringdown is right. I knew when I saw this story that someone would find a way to turn this into a complaint/criticism/attack.

I don't know when my ancestors "immigrated" to the U.S. They came over on a slave ship. They had what the cruise industry now calls an "inside stateroom".

Haiku_Cuckoo 10 years ago

99.9% of those wishing to emigrate here will never find decent jobs

In other words, "Stay in your own countries. You are not welcome here."

I completely disagree. I welcome the legal immigrants with open arms and wish them the best of success. If any of the new citizens are reading this, don't let anyone tell you that you are destined to fail! The opportunities for success are there! Congratulations to all of you!!

justthefacts 10 years ago

For those who are new citizens, welcome and congratulations. For those who have never witnessed this ceremony, make a note to attend it some time. It is a very emotional thing, for all that attend. As to our country welcoming and taking on all who want a better life, as nice as that sounds in the abstract, I must ask: are you willing to let them move in with you? We have far more resources then do some other countries. And we could (and some would say should) share better then we do. But are YOU willing to eat less, have fewer rooms in the house (or more people occupying them) or give up a car? Because that is the type of thing that would/will allow us to give legal entry to more people. Otherwise, the better course of action is to hope their own countries "do the right thing."

I recently had a very interesting discussion with a young man whose Vietnamese parents immigrated to the US. He now works for the US state Department in foreign services. His first assignment was to Mexico. He informed me that while there he discovered all kinds of reasons we should encourage other countries to help their own people, rather then looking to the US to be the answer. For instance, did you know that Mexico encourages its poorest citizens to come to the US, by any means possible, and send money back to their Mexico relatives? The Mexican government MATCHES the funds as an incentive. That means that instead of creating jobs in that country, or THEIR rich (and they have them) share the wealth to help obtain a better life for their own poor, they are exporting their poor to the US/us. It is cheaper that way and they don't have to deal with all the other changes that would be required if their people lived where they were born. The stories he told about how the wealthy in that country treated their poor were very sad indeed. But until we are able/willing to house all such persons in our own homes (literally) we might want to start thinking of ways to "encourage" (economically) other countries to help their people. It's like that old saying: Feed a man with a fish, keep him from starving today. Teach a man to fish, keep him from starving forever.

Haiku_Cuckoo 10 years ago

Wow, that's bold of you Haiku. You rephrase bozo's words into a ridiculous assertion that he didn't make, then you take a stand against it-quite the strawman.

I know. I learned that technique from "Michael Moore's School of Creative Editing".

I still extend a warm welcome to these new citizens. They are living proof that US citizenship is available to those who take the necessary steps to pursue it.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 10 years ago

Immigrants ALWAYS find jobs because they aren't as lazy and unmotivated as us complacent born-and-raised Americans tend to be.

Flap Doodle 10 years ago

"OldEnuf2BYurDad (Anonymous) says: Immigrants ALWAYS find jobs because they aren't as lazy and unmotivated as us complacent born-and-raised Americans tend to be."

Speak for yourself, bub.

Confrontation 10 years ago

"Immigrants ALWAYS find jobs"

Many (not all) of them find careers as criminals. If killing, raping, and stealing from legal citizens is a job, then I guess you're right.

justthefacts 10 years ago

IMO racism refers to a mind set that thinks one race is superior to any other. It is not necessarily the same thing as being prejudiced (pre-judging someone or something else). If your views on immigration are premised upon the belief that your race is superior to other races, whatever those views might be, that is per se racism. If your beliefs about any issue - immigration laws/practices included - have some other basis or origin besides a belief that your race (and its ways) are superior, racism is not involved, as much.

HOWEVER, as anyone who has been the object of racism can probably attest, it is very common for racists to not realize their own feelings/belief as to their race's superiority. It is often an insidious all-pervasive deep-seated condition, that colors a lot of things without the person in question being aware of the root cause. There are many people who say they are not racist, but who really are (and just do not realize it) to some degree. Those who have been subjected to that kind of belief system know it when they see/feel/smell/hear it.

So, in answer to the question "am I a racist when" - the answer is "it depends." Only YOU being totally honest can really answer that question. But beware of thinking your beliefs are not in part impacted by what race you are and how you have been raised. Very few escape that kind of indoctrination entirely.

justthefacts 10 years ago

Absolutely. And believe me, it's really not a pleasant experience to admit one (or one's family) has such tendencies. But mean or stupid feelings/thoughts lurk in the hearts and minds of even in the best of people. The issue is whether one wants to change, improve, and leave behind such archaic and useless means of judging other people (or self).

guesswho 10 years ago

justthefacts...i don't disagree with you, but realize that it is even more complicated when US policies help feul unintended illegal immigration. For example, the US government pressured Mexico to end corn subsidies to their farmers to help US farmers (even though our farmers are also subsidized). What that did was put thousands and thousands of Mexican farmers out of work so they had to emigrate to urban areas and/or the US to look for work to support their family.

staff04 10 years ago

americorps, I was kind of thinking about that also. All praises to folks who go through the process legally, but if my experiences with the immigration system (both in policy and casework)are any indication, I'd bet that less than half of them maintained legal status during the enitre time they were working their way through the process and long wait.

Don't get me wrong, these people are to be commended for their dedication and perseverence to work through the process--I think it really says a lot about our standing as a nation. But, it definitley doesn't mean all is well with the system...

Susan Mangan 10 years ago

One (of the many) reasons illegal immigration is so infuriating is that you can see people doing things the way they're "supposed" to...working within the system and our laws...and taking years of hard work and dedication to become citizens and then some jerk who snuck across the border demands that they should be allowed to stay and reap the same benefits because they managed to cheat well enough to not get caught. That's an insult to everyone who does it legally.

justthefacts 10 years ago

"Guess who" - your point is interesting, pertinent, and not surprising. Very few issues in this world are one-sided or easy to figure out, including the causes for economic flight into the US. However, it helps to make my point. The reason we have an influx from certain countries (like Mexico) is due in large part to their own government's lack of emphasis on keeping certain members of its population in their country of origin. Who would want to leave if their leaders wanted them to stay, and showed it by helping them thrive?

It would not surprise me one tiny bit to find out that the reason the Mexican government "caved" into pressures on corn growing had something to do with securing some other benefits for those in their country who were already in power (and thus already well-off) at the cost of their already suffering poorer folks. That was the point being raised by the very knowledgable and intelligent young man I spoke to; he believed that we would see fewer immigrants (legal or otherwise) if the countries from which they were fleeing in fact did not want to get rid of their own "less desirable" citizens. But, as he is learning all too quickly, many countries have a policy of exporting their poor, to the USA if possible (they really don't care where).

It's a matter of priorities. Every person, politicians included, have them. And a country's value system generally reflects the priorities of those in power. If/when a country truly wanted to help and keep its poor people in the country, it would cease making decisions that force them to choose between starving (or worse) and leaving.

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