Zulema Chavero (Photo by Shelly Erceg)

The United States seemed as though it was another universe, I never thought that I was ever going to come here. I was born in Mexico. I was really happy there. I studied law and I wanted to be a lawyer. But after I finished college, I met my husband who is an American citizen and we moved to the United States 12 years ago. I became a citizen in 2011.

When we moved here my husband and my daughter were citizens but I wasn’t. I wanted to feel that I could stay in the country to be with my family. I wanted to feel secure, so I decided to become a citizen too. Not only did my citizenship make certain that I could stay here with my husband and daughter—and now my son—it also came with many other benefits. It gives me the opportunity to go back to Mexico without worrying about the six-month time limit that LPRs have when they leave the country. I want to go back to school and now I will have the opportunity to apply for better jobs. I also want to vote and now I have the opportunity to vote for people who represent my values; values like family unity, equal opportunity for all workers, equal opportunity for all students, equal opportunity and support for all of our community to achieve the American dream.

Zulema Chavero with her extended family in Mexico (Photo courtesy of Zulema Chavero)

I’m now a community organizer with Somos Un Pueblo Unido in New Mexico. I also coordinate the citizenship program with another organizer. I began as a volunteer and then I was formally hired by the organization in 2008. It was an election year and we did a lot of door knocking to get people out to vote. It was an amazing experience. I felt the energy and the power that our community can have, working together to make a difference. It was another motivation that made me feel that I needed to become a citizen as soon as I was qualified. I talk to my children all the time about the opportunities that being a citizen gives you; all the things that they can do to empower communities, to fight injustices, to be part of the lucha, to be part of something bigger.

Zulema Chavero with her husband and children in Santa Fe, New Mexico
(Photo courtesy of Zulema Chavero)

I became a citizen quickly, three years after I became a resident. Many people wait for years to take the step. I feel that some of these people are already citizens in what they contribute to this country, they are part of our communities and this is their home. They just need the certification, why not get this last piece?