Urges 12 new citizens exercise right to vote
Saturday morning was a big day for a dozen Santa Barbara County residents. During a ceremony in the Faulkner Gallery of the Santa Barbara Central Library held by Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, 12 individuals had their naturalization honored and were presented with certificates recognizing them as citizens of the United States.
Mr. Carbajal spoke to the new citizens and their families in Spanish, with translator Alma Medina repeating his statements in English for the media. The congressman recounted the story of how his own family immigrated to the United States from Mexico when his father came here to work as part of the Bracero program of the 1950s and ’60s, and how becoming a citizen offered him opportunity.
“Number one, being in this country, and two, being a U.S. citizen, has given me a lot of opportunities that I would not have if I wouldn’t be a U.S. citizen,” Ms. Medina translated.
After claiming President Donald Trump prefers white immigrants over immigrants of color, Mr. Carbajal encouraged the new citizens to seize an opportunity now available to them because of their new status: exercising their right to vote. He urged them to register, make a list of issues important to them, choose a political party based on which one best upholds their values, and to vote come election time. Mr. Carbajal particularly stressed the importance of the last.
Ms. Medina translated his words, “When the elections come, if you don’t come and vote, you’re not participating, you’re not practicing the rights of becoming a citizen. … If you do not agree with the representative who has been elected, the only way that you’re going to make a difference is if you vote.”
Following the ceremony, the new citizens registered at a table set up in the library’s lobby.
Mr. Carbajal concluded his speech by listing off the other rights the new citizens can exercise, such as serving on a jury, traveling with an American passport, and petitioning for family members to come to the U.S.
One by one, he then called up the dozen new citizens, each carrying a small American flag, to receive their certificate.
The News-Press caught up with several individuals after the ceremony, all joyful for their achievement. Santa Barbara resident Roberto Nolasco, originally from Jalisco, Mexico, went through a 10-month process to become naturalized and said it was a “relief” to finally get citizenship. He added that he was particularly happy to have the right to vote.
“By voting it’s helping myself, my family, and others that cannot vote,” he said.
For others, the process took years. Santa Barbara resident Abraham Rodriguez said his process lasted more than two decades. At the age of 2, Mr. Rodriguez moved to the United States from Acapulco, Mexico, with his mom and dad. Growing up he was always careful not to do anything wrong and place his and his family’s life in America at risk. Now 26 years old, he feels the wait was “totally worth it.”
A two-decade process was also the case for the Santos family, Lompoc residents and immigrants from Jalisco, Mexico. Rafael Santos was recognized during the ceremony along with is father, also named Rafael Santos, and his mother, Rosa Santos. The elder Rafael Santos stated that finally achieving citizenship gave him a “sentimental feeling.” The younger said that becoming citizens was apt for his family since they’ve been in this country for so long and thus like citizens anyway.
“We’ve been here over 20 years, might as well become full-fledged citizens. It’s not as if we that we’re not Americans,” he said.