American Dream: 195th Airman's Journey to Citizenship

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Forest Decker
  • 195th Wing Public Affairs

Griselda Gonzalez moved to the U.S. from Mexico when she was less than a year old. She joined the military in January 2019 with goal of obtaining her citizenship and eventually becoming an officer in the U.S. Air Force.

“I want the opportunity to become an officer. That’s why I didn’t go the officer route, I had to go enlisted because you must be a US citizen,” said Gonzalez.

The actual citizenship application process can take from six months to as much as a year, or longer, even if you are already a permanent resident. Gonzalez’s process was expedited to two months due to her military service. She was eligible to apply for naturalization under special provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) culminating with the ceremony featuring 601 applicants from more than sixty-nine countries.

Raised in Sacramento, she wanted to continue for that to be her home and joining the Air National Guard made that possible.

“I want to do something helping with natural disasters in California,” Gonzalez said. “I feel like California is home to me, it just felt like this is what I wanted to do.”

The ceremony started with a video that showed scenes from the American landmarks, like the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore and Washington D.C. When their country of origin was announced, the new citizens were asked to stand representing their country. After all the countries were called out, they raised their right hand to recite the Pledge and Oath of Allegiance.

“You are now citizens of the United States of America,” a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officer announced from the stage and was quickly drowned out by applause and cheering.

“I thought the ceremony was awesome,” Gonzalez said. “It is so surreal, especially when you meet people from all walks of life from different countries, I think it makes the experience a little more special.”