YC church welcomes citizens
For Maria Perez, gaining U.S. citizenship was not just a personal goal - it was a family affair.
Last week, she and four other relatives officially obtained their new legal status in Sacramento.
On Sunday, they were among 53 Mid-Valley residents celebrating their citizenship - and their chance to pursue new goals - at St. Isidore Catholic Church in Yuba City.
"It's something that is really exciting for us," Perez, 21, said outside the church after mass.
Perez was joined by an uncle, a cousin, her sister and her mother. She said each had different reasons for wanting citizenship but shared a common sentiment: They felt a newfound freedom to take on new challenges.
The gathering was sponsored by the Sacramento-based nonprofit North Valley Sponsoring Committee, a regional arm of the PICO National Network, a network of faith-based organizations throughout the country.
North Valley focuses its resources on educating area immigrant populations and helping people through the process of obtaining U.S. citizenship.
Last week, the group helped 98 residents from several counties become U.S. citizens.
Perez came to America from Mexico with her family 20 years ago and is now a Yuba College student hoping to transfer to California State University, Sacramento.
She said she wanted to become a citizen so she can soon fulfill her civic duty.
"It's the right to vote, that's the most important to me," she said.
Perez's 42-year-old mother, Martha, had several hurdles to clear. Her reading and writing abilities are limited and she speaks little English. Now she also looks forward to voting.
Mike Collazo, 41, is Perez's uncle. The farmworker said he wants to look for a better job with benefits.
All said North Valley helped them get to this point.
Alberto Velázquez, North Valley's director, said his group works to create leaders in the region's rural communities who can help educate their peers and address the day-to-day issues they face.
"The next step is to get these new citizens involved with the problems in their community," he said.
Appeal-Democrat reporter Daniel Thigpen can be reached at 749-4713. You may e-mail him at email@example.com.