Maria G. Meza, a college student, is now a citizen of the United States, but it wasn’t as easy or as quick as she wanted.
Her journey began when she was 9 years old and lived in Michoacan, Mexico, with her parents Rodolfo and Evelia Meza and siblings. Maria’s dad had been spending time in both Los Banos and Mexico. Initially, her mom would remain in Mexico with the kids while the dad worked. In 2007 Maria and her family boarded a plane in Mexico and landed in Los Angeles. From here, a family friend drove them to Los Banos, where the family continues to reside.
The citizenship process for Maria began in 2018, when she enrolled in a citizenship class at the Los Banos Campus of Merced College. She took all the citizenship lessons to heart, and as she put it, “Studied, studied, and studied!” She said she was inspired when Merced College Trustee Joe Gutierrez visited the class and gave an inspiring talk about being a citizen. She is now a psychology student at California State University, Stanislaus.
But the final steps to citizenship, an event in Fresno May 21, was delayed by the Covid pandemic. However, the passing years did not derail her dream to citizenship.
Maria formally applied to become a citizen by sending in her application a year after studying about the history and government of the United States. She filed an official application and was notified to be fingerprinted, which she did. She was then told that she would be given a date to take the mandatory test. Because of the pandemic, she had to wait a year and seven months before she received the notice. When it finally arrived, she told her citizenship instructor, Professor Tim McNally, the good news, and he offered to help review the information before the test date.
Here is the story of the important final day:
“My appointment was for 7:30 a.m. in Fresno. And I got there at 7 a.m. The line outside was long, and there was about a 15-minute wait just to get in. Some of the women were in high heels and I said to myself, ‘I am really glad I wore just boots.’”
“It had been so long since my class, so I had to do a study session with my former teacher, Mr. McNally. He told me I knew everything and not to sweat it. I was still nervous.
“As we entered, we had to put all our belongings on the tray (for security checks). When we got inside, we walked into a waiting room and made small talk with the attendants. My name was called about 15 minutes later, and I went into the office of the examiner, where she swore me in as I repeated the oath that I would swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
“She then reviewed my documents to make sure I did not have any criminal intentions toward the United States or committed any crimes or felonies. The examiner was really nice and told me we would start with the oral part of the test. She said she would ask me questions and I was to answer them thoroughly. I said to myself. ‘ I hope she doesn’t ask me who the President during WW 1 was because I could never remember it in class.’ I was pretty sure it was Woodrow Wilson though.
“Her first question: What is the Rule of Law? My answer: Everyone must follow the law. That is correct!
“Second question: How many years is the term for a House of Representative member? My answer: two years. That’s correct!
“Third question: What is the role of the President’s cabinet? My answer: to advise the President. That’s correct!
“Fourth question: What is the capital of your state? My answer: Sacramento. That’s correct!
“‘Ok, you are doing great,” the examiner says. ‘Let’s move on to the reading test. Please read out loud what this sentence says: Which state has the most people?’ I read: Which state has the most people? That’s correct!
“‘Ok, now for the writing test: Please write out the answer to the question you just read,’ she asked. I wrote, California has the most people. That’s correct!
“‘Congratulations!’ she said. ‘You have just passed the citizenship test! We will assemble at 10 a.m. today to take the oath and complete the process.’
“At 11 a.m. 27 of us (who were about to become citizens) gathered in the hall and swore allegiance to our new country. I was so excited. I ran to the waiting room and yelled: ‘Dad, I passed!’ He hugged me and congratulated me.
“I can’t believe it! I can register to vote! I am really proud of myself and my new country. I am truly an American citizen. The journey was worth it.
“The drive home was great and I was excited to go to a rodeo festival and barbeque with my friends that evening.”
Maria thanked Merced College and the Los Banos Campus citizenship class there for all the help in the process, including how to register and apply. If you or someone you know wants to apply for citizenship, Merced College offers a comprehensive review. You may apply for the class directly at the Los Banos campus.