Ignacio Villegas Arellano and his wife, Maria Guadalupe Correa de Villegas, have been legal permanent residents of the United states since 1968. But then the rise of Donald Trump happened, prompting the 101-year-old Villegas Arellano to become a full-fledged citizen . His 94-year-old wife followed his lead just one week after his April 19 naturalization. Though they were in the country legally, the couple says that Trump’s insistence on deporting undocumented Mexican immigrants left them scared they would be rounded up, as well. Ignacio was a farmworker, traveling between the U.S. and Mexico for years before settling in California, thanks in large part to his children.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla was at the naturalization in Fresno and praised the couple on their accomplishment.
“For many, applying to become a citizen can be frightening and the process can be intimidating,” Secretary Padilla told mitú in an emailed statement. “I know this on a personal level. My mother and father became citizens almost twenty years ago. I remember my parents worry as they studied for the citizenship test. Like Mr. Villegas, they were successful. Mr. Villegas can now be a louder voice for his community and help shape the direction of our state and our nation.”
Ricky Martin says when it comes to the Latino support of Joe Biden for president, voters bang. He also says those who are voting for Donald Trump completely bomb.
In an interview with The Big Ticket podcast, the “Livin La Vida Loca” singer highlighted the importance of voter turnout and laid out his reasons for giving former Vice President Joe Biden his own vote.
Speaking to The Big Ticket, Martin underlined his efforts to see change this year.
“I’ve been supporting Biden forever,” the singer shared on the podcast. “I think he is the only option we have and he is great. He has been in politics all his life. This is the moment. We all need to get together and be loud about the course of this nation.” For Martin, it seems that the backing of Biden by the Latino community is especially important and seeing anything less is something he truly cannot understand. Martin went so far as to highlight his disbelief in seeing Wanda Vázquez, the current governor of Puerto Rico, endorsing Trump this year.
“Who is that? Next!” he exclaimed during the podcast. “She doesn’t even exist. She wasn’t even elected by the people. She’s not part of this conversation.”
Trump went onto call Latinos in the United States who support Trump “really scary.”
When asked about Latinos in the United States who support Trump, Martin said it’s “really scary” to see but he remains positive that the majority of Latinos will vote him out of office.
“It’s really scary,” he said, before commenting that he does think that the majority of Latinos will vote for Biden. “It’s super sad. I think. Trumpeters make a lot of noise. And it’s scary to see their enthusiasm but us, we’re doing what’s right, the right way and we’ll see what happens in November. But I’m very optimistic.”
“I am a Latino, gay, married to an Arab living in Trump’s America,” he said about his husband Jwan Yosef, a Syrian-born, Swedish painter Marin married in 2017. “We check all the boxes.”
Martin’s comments come at a time when Trump continues to receive support from Cubans in Florida.
The battleground state has seen Cuban Americans, who often vote Republican, make last-ditch efforts to reelect Trump. “Florida’s Cuban American voters remain a bright spot in Trump’s effort to retain his winning coalition from 2016,” ABC reported. “Polls show his strong support from these key voters may even be growing to include the younger Cuban Americans that Democrats once considered their best hope of breaking the GOP’s hold. For Trump, that support could prove essential in a tight race in a state he must win to beat Democratic challenger Joe Biden.”
Referring to the increase in early voters this year, Martin says he’s happy to see voters turning out. “For that, I’m extremely happy,” he explained. “We’ve had plans of if we might leave the country. No, we have to stay here and fight for our rights and for what we believe.”
You can check out Martin’s full interview with The Big Ticket on Nov. 3.
Becoming a U.S. resident or citizen has never been an easy process. The country’s immigration system is a convoluted mess that sharply leans in favor of high-wealth individuals and under the Trump administration that is becoming more apparent than ever.
But 2020 has been an especially challenging year for immigrants seeking to complete their citizenship process.
Although it’s common for interest in naturalization to spike in the months leading up to presidential elections, the Coronavirus pandemic forced the citizenship process to a grinding halt in March. The outbreak shut offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) all across the country. And although many of these offices reopened in July, there is a widening backlog of applications.
Meanwhile, on October 2, looming fee increases could leave applications and citizenship out of reach for tens of thousands of immigrants, as the process becomes significantly more costly.
Many migrant advocacy groups are hosting events meant to help immigrants complete their applications before prices are set to rise.
In South Florida, the Office of New Americans (ONA) — a public-private partnership between Miami-Dade County and non-profit legal service providers — launched its second Miami Citizenship Week on Sept. 11. This 10-day event is designed to help immigrants with free legal support so participants can beat the October 2 deadline.
In addition, the event will host a mix of celebrations meant to highlight the social and economic contributions of South Florida’s large immigrant communities.
“I think in Miami we talk about how we are diverse and how we are adjacent to Latin America, but we never take a moment to celebrate immigrants and the amazing work that they do whether it’s the nurses in our hospitals, the drivers that drive our buses, small business owners,” said Krystina François, ONA’s executive director. “We need to reclaim the narrative around immigrants and around our communities because it’s what makes us great.”
However, thanks to Covid-19 restrictions, the events will all be hosted online.
Much like any other event, Covid-19 has greatly impacted this year’s “Citizenship Week.” Therefore, the event will be hosted virtually. That includes the Mega Citizenship Clinic, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 16-20. At the event, pro-bono lawyers from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Americans for Immigrant Justice and other groups will connect with attendees one-on-one on Zoom and walk them through the process of filling out the 20-page citizenship application form.
The clinic is open to immigrants eligible to become naturalized citizens, meaning permanent residents who have had a green card for at least five years.
Cities like Dallas are also getting in on similar events, meant to welcome new residents and citizens into the city.
Dallas’ Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs is hosting a series of virtual events from Sept. 12 to Sept. 20 in honor of Welcoming Week. The virtual events aim to promote Dallas’ diverse communities and to unite all residents, including immigrants and refugees.
According to the City of Dallas, this year’s theme is Creating Home Together, and it emphasizes the importance of coming together as a community to build a more inclusive city for everyone.
A Council Member, Jaime Resendez, will host a virtual program on Tuesday at 11 a.m. that celebrates Latinx art and culture. The event will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Mayor Eric Johnson will read the Welcoming Week Proclamation, and the event will feature art exhibitions and performances showcasing the talents of performers and artists across Dallas.
Attendees will also have a chance to learn more about the availability of DACA and a citizenship workshop will take place where articipants will learn how to complete their N-400 application for citizenship. Volunteer immigration attorneys and accredited representatives from the Department of Justice will be there for assistance.
The events come as fees for several immigration proceedings are set to rise by dramatic amounts come October 1.
Starting on October 2, the financial barrier will grow even taller for many immigrants as fees are set to increase. The fee to apply for U.S. citizenship will increase from $640 to $1,160 if filed online, or $ 1,170 in paper filing, a more than 80% increase in cost.
“In the middle of an economic downturn, an increase of $520 is a really big amount,” François told the Miami-Herald.
Aside from the fee increase, many non-citizen immigrants never truly felt the need to become citizens. That was until the Coronavirus pandemic hit and had many questioning their status in the country.
“There are people who up until this COVID crisis, their status as a permanent resident didn’t impact their day-to-day life … but then the pandemic has given them another reason of why it’s important to take that extra step and become a citizen, because of the additional rights and protections that are afforded to you, but also to just have a sense of security and stability in a crisis.”