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Elsa Barletta: “Don’t delay the process!”

December 15, 2023
Elsa after her naturalization oath ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Elsa Barletta)

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Like many young people, Elsa Barletta, 42, first came to the U.S. to further her education, arriving in Columbus, Ohio, in 2006 on a student visa. Elsa, originally from Honduras, had earned her undergraduate degree in communications in Mexico but wanted to pursue graduate school in the U.S.

“I saw the opportunities to further my education here, and I wanted to take full advantage of that,” Elsa said.

Elsa completed her master’s degree in economics and is pursuing a Ph.D. in political science, which she will complete in the summer of 2024. Elsa’s initial dream of a university teaching career shifted in 2018 when she volunteered at the International Institute of Akron. Witnessing firsthand the challenges faced by immigrants sparked a new calling. She transitioned to a full-time legal assistant role, guiding clients through their own immigration journeys.

“I became passionate about the work and decided to stay with the organization, and I’m pretty happy here,” Elsa said. “I wanted to naturalize because it’s an important step for anyone with that opportunity. You have certain rights as a permanent resident, but you don’t have the full amount of rights or responsibilities that you would have as a citizen.”

Elsa decided this was the year she would go through the naturalization process and celebrated her oath ceremony with colleagues at the end of September. She had become a lawful permanent resident in August 2020 through marriage.

“The day of the oath ceremony, I also registered to vote, and it was a privilege and an honor to vote for the first time in November,” Elsa said. “Citizenship is an important step to take if you want to fully be immersed in the U.S.”

Elsa’s advice to immigrants who are eligible to naturalize: “Don’t delay the process. It’s not as overwhelming as it may seem. There are always organizations that will assist you in the process. Seize the opportunity.”