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Dream realized: Chico resident completes 32-year journey to citizenship

By Austin Jackson | Published Saturday, November 3, 2018
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PATRIOT – Chico resident Ubaldo Garcia, 32, stands outside his home in Chico. In November, after a year-long process Garcia will take an oath and be sworn in as a U.S. citizen. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Two weeks was all that separated Ubaldo Garcia from citizenship.

The birthright just missed him, as his mother moved his family from Mexico to Texas when the Chico resident was just two weeks old.

She had a dream, for herself and her family, Garcia said – the American dream.

For 32 years, the Chico volunteer firefighter and warehouse lead at Hanson Aggregates lived it; in every way except for one.

After a long process, months of stress and constant studying, Garcia will soon be able to call himself an American citizen. He passed the civics test this week. His swearing in ceremony is set for Nov. 26, where he’ll get his certificate of naturalization, officially becoming a United States citizen.

It’s a moment and a piece of paper that he will not take for granted.

“I’m hanging up my certification of naturalization on my wall and I’ll stare at it every day,” Garcia said. “Some people don’t understand, but I do. I’m proud to live in America. But I’m even more proud to be a citizen of this place because the United States has done so much for me, my family, my brothers and my mom. I love this place. I hear the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ and it gets me pumped up.

“Some people may see this as small to become a citizen of this country,” he added. “I don’t.”

It all started with Garcia’s mother, Martha Garcia, who decided to give her son a better life when she became pregnant with Ubaldo at 17.

She made the decision that set up Ubaldo for his swearing ceremony some 32 years later, when she was 18.

“When Ubaldo was born, I decided that there was no future for us in Mexico,” she said. “I wanted to give my kids a better life. I sent him first and a couple weeks later, I swam the river. It was a long journey.”

The two reunited and Garcia set up her new life in Alvord where she raised Ubaldo and eventually raised his two siblings.

She applied and received amnesty, becoming legal, then applied for a green card and permanent residency shortly after.

Then she started a new life, living in Muenster briefly then moving back to Alvord, where Ubaldo graduated high school in 2004. His graduation gave her pride and prompted her further ‘motivation’ and pleading for Ublado to seek citizenship. She led the way in 2013, earning her naturalization as a U.S. citizen.

“I was pushing him to become a citizen, but I wasn’t one myself,” she said. “So I became a citizen five years ago. Then I kept on pushing him.”

The campaign worked. Ubaldo applied for naturalization in November last year. It was the realization of Martha Garcia’s dream.

“It was a big relief,” she said.

For Ubaldo, it was a nerve-racking process. Bureaucracy, paperwork, applications, a biometric test, and a civic test stood in the way.

Initially, he was told it could take until the year 2020 before he could take the civics test. But much to his surprise, he received a letter in the mail from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in September. His appointment at the Irving office of was set for Oct. 30.

The civics test whittled a bank of 100 questions to 10. They could vary from softballs like ‘who was the first president’ to intricate details about the House of Representatives, Garcia said.

“It was the longest month of my life,” he said.

So he hit the books and the app, constantly.

“My wife helped me study. We studied for hours, whenever I could,” he said. “I have an app on my phone. I would take it with me everywhere. At work. I was studying it in any kind of downtime I had.”

On Oct. 30, he and his wife drove down to Irving for the big day.

He overcame the nerves and the tough questions, acing the civics test and easily navigating the English test.

Then he got word of his swearing-in ceremony, where he will fulfill and complete the 32-year journey.

When Ubaldo graduated high school, he wanted to serve in the U.S. Navy, but the recruiter said he couldn’t.

He wasn’t a citizen – a dream temporarily deferred.

He could voice his opinions on the political world around him, but he couldn’t put them to action with a vote.

He found other ways to serve his community. He became a volunteer firefighter. In July, he joined fellow firefighters from the Chico Volunteer Fire Department in helping save two children and their mother from a house fire.

Now, he looks forward to continuing his service and love for his country as a U.S. citizen.

Though he won’t be able to vote in this election, he said if anything, this process has taught him patience.

“This is all I wanted,” Garcia said. “To become a U.S. citizen. To serve. To vote. It’s a relief. I can breathe easier now. To see how happy it made my mother, it’s just a long time coming. I couldn’t be happier.”

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