Mirna Flores moved from Mexico to the U.S. when she was 9 years old. Along with her parents and seven siblings, Flores learned to love this country especially the Coachella Valley, a place she has never left.
“You know I have always felt like I am part of this country,” Flores said.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the U.S. welcomes more than 700,000 naturalized citizens per year. Flores was one of the 752,800 immigrants who became a U.S. citizen in 2016. Flores had one goal in mind: getting the right to vote in the country she now calls her home. September 17 is National Citizenship Day.
“The beauty of my citizenship, and the reason I’ll always be proud is that I got sworn in on my birthday,” Flores said.
Flores’ mother was a seasonal farmworker and her father an irrigator in Oasis. As many immigrant families, they hoped for a brighter future for their children.
“I’m Mexican, but I came to this country at a young age,” Flores said. “I feel like I belong here, but my roots are in Mexico.”
The naturalization process for Flores only took four months allowing her to vote for the 2016 presidential election. Flores worked with immigration lawyer Megan Beaman Jacinto.
Julio Rodriguez is a legal assistant at Megan Beaman Jacinto’s law firm. He said the process usually takes between three to five years for a lawful permanent resident to become a citizen.
“There are many benefits you won’t have access as a lawful permanent resident,” Rodriguez said.
In the Coachella Valley, there are several organizations such as TODEC and COFEM that help lawful permanent residents with the naturalization process and fees. Beaman Law also offers help with immigration-related cases.
As for Flores, she is getting ready to volunteer at the voting polls in the upcoming midterm elections.
“They already contacted me, and I’m on the list,” Flores said.