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New U.S. citizens honored in Elgin

July 16, 2017

  • La nueva ciudadana Elvira Guillermina Marcial escucha con los ojos cerrados la interpretación del Elgin Master Choral de “God Bless America” durante la 19a ceremonia anual de reconocimiento a ciudadanos el miércoles en el Centre de Elgin.
    New citizen Elvira Guillermina Marcial listens with her eyes closed to the Elgin Master Chorale’s rendition of “God Bless America” at the 19th annual citizenship recognition ceremony Wednesday at the Centre of Elgin
  • Filipe Burciaga tomó parte de la 19a ceremonia anual de reconocimiento a ciudadanos llevada a cabo por el Elgin City Council la noche del miércoles en el Centre de Elgin.
    Filipe Burciaga took part in the 19th annual citizenship recognition ceremony held by the Elgin City Council Wednesday night at the Centre of Elgin.

A permanent resident for 31 years, Maria Morales de Manrique felt no need to become a U.S. citizen until her grandchildren told her they worried she’d be deported.

Even though the Elgin resident felt secure with her immigration status, she said, she didn’t want political rhetoric to negatively affect them, so she decided it was time. “I also wanted to vote. That’s important,” added the Mexico native, who became a citizen in July.

Morales de Manrique was among about 20 area residents who received their U.S. citizenship in the last year and were honored this month by the Elgin City Council at the 19th annual citizenship recognition program. Other new citizens came from Pakistan, El Salvador, India, Poland and Venezuela.

About 50 new citizens signed up to participate in the Elgin ceremony, the highest number in recent years. Citizenship applications have increased across the country, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data shows.

In the first quarter of this year, the agency received about 290,000 citizenship applications, and about 744,000 were pending. That’s up from the first quarter of 2016, when there were about 252,000 applications and about 447,000 pending.

Severiano Nevarez of Elgin, who is originally from Mexico and took the oath of citizenship June 14, said he looks forward to registering to vote and taking part in the U.S. political process.

He came accompanied by several neighbors, including Sally Rhymes, who said Nevarez, a house painter, has become part of the fabric of the community. “If you need help, all you need to do is call him — if he’s not up on a ladder,” she said.

Mayor David Kaptain praised the work of the citizenship program committee, which includes representatives of Centro de Informacion, Literacy Connection, Elgin Community College and Gail Borden Public Library.

“The role of a city is to help people become citizens,” Kaptain said.

Becoming a naturalized citizen doesn’t mean giving up appreciation for one’s heritage, said former federal judge Manny Barbosa.

“For many of us, American citizenship is a birthright, something that we sometimes we take for granted,” Barbosa said, “but for our honorees these evening, it was a journey.”

Most immigrants must have been permanent residents for at least five years before they can apply for U.S. citizenship. The process includes paying $725, passing an FBI background check, taking a civics test and demonstrating English proficiency. There are certain exemptions for older people who’ve been permanent residents for 15 or more years.

Becoming a U.S. citizen often is a long and hard journey, said Ana Maria Hinkhouse, of Streamwood, a native of Mexico who works as a senior graphic designer for Reflejos bilingual newspaper.

Hinkhouse came to the United States 11 years ago, got married and decided to became a citizen two years ago “to have a more secure future,” she said.

“More than ever, becoming a citizen is important to be able to have a real voice in this country for our community,” she said.

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