Alba Dominguez clutched a certificate and a small American flag at the end of a ceremony Monday in Modesto.
“I’m finally becoming a citizen,” the Merced resident said. “It’s a dream.”
She was one of 157 people from 25 countries who swore their allegiance to America at the end of a years-long process. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services put on the event at the Stanislaus Veterans Center on Coffee Road.
Mexico as usual produced the most new citizens — 107 people — followed by 13 from India and eight from the Philippines. Others came from Africa, Europe, Asia, Latin America and Canada.
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Dominguez, 43, left Guerrero, Mexico, for the United States about 20 years ago. She is a farm labor supervisor and has four children with husband Jose Saenz. She likes that she will be able to vote and have an easier time finding work as a citizen.
New citizen Kaissar Yousif, 36, of Modesto, left Mosul, Iraq, in 2008 because of violence that included the death of a brother-in-law.
“We decided to leave everything behind and come to the United States,” Yousif said. He works as a car painter and has two daughters with wife Noura, who became a citizen two years ago.
The federal agency usually swears in citizens at field offices, including one in Fresno for people in and near Stanislaus County. Road shows like Monday’s are done around the Fourth of July to celebrate the founding of a nation that has long drawn immigrants.
Generally, people seeking citizenship must have at least five years as a permanent legal resident of the United States. They must understand English and the basics of American history and government, and be of “good moral character.”
The timeline can be shortened for spouses and members of the U.S. military. A total of 752,800 people completed the process in the last fiscal year.
“Your hard work in getting here is remarkable,” said Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, the keynote speaker Monday. He said he would like to ease the process for others through legislation that also secures the borders and provides a stable workforce.
Citizenship arrived in the 52nd year of marriage for Planada residents Leonardo Garcia Jimenez, 70, and Guadalupe Zavala de Garcia, 71. They are retired farm workers who left Guanajuato, Mexico, in 1995. They have six children.
“Hopefully, things are better for us in the future,” Guadalupe said.
The applicants took the oath from Lynn Quan Feldman, director of the Fresno office and a refugee at age 4 from Vietnam. She said the crowd reflected the diversity that she loves in the Central Valley.
“Stay authentic,” Feldman said. “Remember to share your story.”
John Holland: 209-578-2385