New Stories

What’s Becoming a Citizen Like?

by Maggie McLeod

Photo courtesy of Juliet Montes Duran

Juliet Montes Duran, a student at Pitt-Greensburg, officially became a naturalized U.S. citizen. Montes Duran, 20, has an acute interest in democracy as a political science major. Now she is able to participate in the very subject that she studies after a year-and-a-half long process. 

“It’s such an honor to be able to vote. I want to emphasize that because a lot of people maybe take it for granted…It’s so relieving to know my opinion counts. Now I can express my opinion on the ballot. I’m now officially a part of the country I grew up in,” Montes Duran said. 

“I’m now officially a part of the country I grew up in”

Her process, as she described, started with filling out an application. If the application is approved, they then go to a biometrics appointment where the applicant’s fingerprints and photos are taken and recorded in the FBI database. 

After biometrics, applicants must pass a background check. They then interview to evaluate how fluent one is in a variety of American topics such as history, government, and the English language. If the applicant is approved by the agent, they will then take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. This entire procedure can cost up to $725.  

One of the highlights of Montes Duran’s first day as a citizen included participating in the first meeting of a new Pitt-Greensburg club, the Asian Alliance Club. Montes Duran emphasized the importance of this meeting because it was a day full of, “embracing the diversity of America.”

However, Montes Duran has not always felt that her Mexican culture was embraced by others while in the United States. In school, she faced adversity from her peers when they would make judgmental comments about her not being a citizen. 

“They [classmates] were trying to shame me for my heritage. And at first, I didn’t understand why they were doing that. I felt isolated and not a part of the environment,” Montes Duran said.

Over time, she gained a sense of confidence and reminded herself that she would be a citizen one day. 

“I understood why they [classmates] were doing that. I was able to embrace that yes, I am not a citizen …yet. But I will be … in the near future. And I will be a part of this country. I will do my best to strive for the best in this country,” Montes Duran said.

As a daughter of immigrants, Montes Duran is inspired by those that work for organizations whose goal is to help refugees adjust to the cultural changes of migrating to America, and she hopes to work for one of these organizations herself one day. 

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