College of Coastal Georgia News
By Tiffany King
On January 18, 2019, Ada Ramirez became a citizen of the United States of America and she couldn't be happier. Ramirez, an accountant in the Office of Business Affairs and 2018 graduate of the College of Coastal Georgia, recited the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance in front of family and friends, making her already-established home in America permanent. She moved to Brunswick from Mexico when she was 5 years old, following her father who came to the United States in pursuit of a better life for his family.
Her pathway to citizenship was a long journey, taking approximately 19 years. After moving to the United States, it took about a decade for her family's visas to be processed. When they received their visas they had to wait four years before applying for permanent residency. Another five years followed after having permanent residency before Ramirez could apply for citizenship. To be approved for citizenship, Ramirez had to participate in an interview and pass a civics test. There are 100 possible questions on the test but applicants are only asked 10. If the first six questions are answered correctly the test is over—a feat Ramirez achieved. Once the civics test was successfully passed, Ramirez tackled a reading and writing test, where she read aloud and wrote down a sentence to prove she understood the English language.
Ramirez was really nervous, as anyone would be while taking a test that can impact the rest of his or her life. She kept misspelling "November" and "December." The immigration officer, whom she described as understanding and nice, could tell she was anxious.
"He said he knew that I was nervous and knew that I could spell," Ramirez said laughing. "He told me then and there he was going to send in my paperwork to be approved."
On the big day, Ramirez and her family drove down to the Department of Homeland Security in Jacksonville. She and the other successful applicants watched a video message from President Donald Trump welcoming them to the United States. They then recited the Pledge of Allegiance, sang the Star Spangled Banner, took the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance, and finally received their certificate of naturalization.
"I'm excited to be a citizen because it's been a very long time," Ramirez said. "I'm finally done with visas and thinking about having to renew my permanent residency. I don't have to worry about those things anymore. I feel very relaxed and I'm finally able to breathe," she said while letting out a sigh of relief.
Ramirez talked about the new privileges she'll have as a citizen, such as accepting that she might be called for jury duty, learning how to operate a firearm, and holding a federal office position. What she's most looking forward to is exercising her right to vote.
"One of the things I'm most excited about is voting," she said "and being able to contribute to society in that way."
Ramirez took the oath with 20 other new citizens from different countries such as France, Germany, India, Cuba, Argentina, Cambodia, the Philippines, Canada, Ukraine, and Columbia. She was the only applicant from Mexico and the only person living in Georgia.
"I just kept looking around at all the many people there from different countries. The officials said that's what made the United States what it is—a melting post of different cultures," she said.
Ramirez is very thankful for the opportunity to become an American, something everyone is not always able to accomplish. Some people have to constantly renew their visas, which is costly. She is very grateful to her father for always thinking about their family's future and for ensuring that they could continue to live their lives in the US.
She also commended St. Simons Island attorney John Butin, who is her family's immigration lawyer. Her parents wanted to make sure they did everything properly and engaged Butin to help with the process. She said Butin and his legal assistant Carmen Bautista were invaluable in helping her become an American citizen.
"I'm very grateful and happy to have citizenship. Sometimes it's something people take for granted," she said. "There's so many people here from different countries—of course I want to be a citizen."