By Alisa Brantz
The Sheridan Press
SHERIDAN — Jorge Raymundo Pelayo, a 26-year-old born in Jalisco, Mexico, has been living in Sheridan since he was 12 years old.
When Pelayo moved to Sheridan he attended Central Middle School and his dad worked for the Las Margaritas chain, which is now Los Agaves.
“Back then I was kind of like the guinea pig because they didn’t have a system in place to integrate alien residents into the school,” he said.
Now, Pelayo has been pipelining for seven years and attempting to become a citizen for nearly that long.
“It is hard to get things done while you’re working and traveling for work,” he said, “but I’ve been working in Douglas for the past year and a half and the immigration office is in Casper so I was finally able to focus and do it.”
Pelayo joined others in taking their Oath of Allegiance on Thursday afternoon as Judge John Fenn deemed nine people from a variety of countries citizens of the United States in a naturalization ceremony at the 4th Judicial District Court.
Being a US citizen is one of the most desirable citizenships in the world as it awards the person a variety of privileges and rights including voting, bringing their family to the U.S. to become residents, traveling with a U.S. passport, becoming eligible for federal jobs and elected positions and permanent and unconditional stay in the country.
The privilege is not one easily afforded, though, and the process can be a lengthy and difficult one to complete.
Maria Lorena Barragan agreed that the time commitment can often be the biggest hindrance to finishing.
Barragan has been here for eight years and each of her three children became citizens last February but she was unable to complete the process in time to be in the same ceremony as them.
“I had to study a lot, but this is the country I want to live in so it’s worth it,” she said. “I live here so I want to have the same opportunities and rules as everyone else.”
The process to be afforded those opportunities begins with an application processed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and then assigned to a local Application Support Center.
The applicant then visits the local center for biometric services such a fingerprinting, which then sparks a background check conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Next comes the scheduling for the citizenship test and interview.
The interview cannot occur until after the application has been processed and the application processing time varies, but the USCIS says they are working toward having all applications processed within six months of being filed.
During the interview the applicant is asked questions regarding the information on the application as well as questions regarding their commitment to the United States. The officer is simultaneously scrutinizing the applicant’s ability to speak and understand the English language and the honesty of the applicant as all questions are answered under oath and in English.
The citizenship test can be taken the same day as the interview and consists of four parts: a speaking test, a reading test, a writing test and a civics knowledge test.
The civics portion of the test consists of 100 questions on the history and government of the U.S.
Once the test and interview are successfully completed the Oath of Allegiance will be taken at a naturalization ceremony, granting the applicant a naturalization certificate and making them a citizen.
The swearing-in ceremony can take place immediately but can take up to two years to schedule depending on the district office’s availability.
Fenn said that the ceremony is a great honor and celebration for all involved, even the judge.
“When I get to sit up here and reside over these ceremonies I think of my own family and my great-grandpa and what they had to do so I can be where I am,” he said during the ceremony Thursday. “I see in all of you my family and your descendants will be afforded the blessings that come with being a US citizen just like I have been.”
A standing-room-only crowd gathered at the ceremony to offer their congratulations and bestow gifts on the new citizens including Rep. John Patton, R-Sheridan, Sheridan County Sheriff Dave Hofmeier, representatives from the Daughters of the American Revolution and students from Martin Luther Grammar School, who performed the “Star Spangled Banner” and other patriotic pieces.
New citizens naturalized Thursday
• Suzana Ramirez Raya, Mexico
• Umit Yildiz, Turkey
• Benjamin Villegas, Mexico
• Jorge Raymundo Pelayo, Mexico
• Laura Hamilton, United Kingdom
• Mayra Elizabeth Pelayo Pelayo, Mexico
• Tahira Khan, Pakistan
• Maria Lorena Barragan, Mexico
• Juan Sebastian Vicencio Castro, Mexico
US Citizenship eligibility requirements
• Be 18 years of age or above
• A lawful permanent resident, having maintained continuous residence and a physical presence, for five years or three years if married to a US citizen
• Have good moral character
• Have basic knowledge of English
• Have basic knowledge of US government and history
• Be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance
Sample questions from the Naturalization Test
• The House of Representatives has how many voting members?
• The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the US Constitution. Name one of the writers.
• Before he was President, Eisenhower was a general in what war?
• Name one of the two longest rivers in the United States.
• Why does the flag have 13 stripes?
• Name your U.S. Representative.