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30 complete path to citizenship in ceremony at Hammond

IrmLeticiMunguicenter holds ondocument showing her as citizen United States following naturalizaticeremony U.S. Courthouse Hammond. Watching Munguiget sworn were her husbKenneth

Irma Leticia Munguia, center, holds onto a document showing her as a citizen of the United States following a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. Courthouse in Hammond. Watching Munguia get sworn in were her husband, Kenneth Arellano, and her mother-in-law, Ruth Arellano Munguia. | Karen Caffarini/For The Post-Tribune

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Updated: October 10, 2013 6:14AM



HAMMOND — Twenty-one years after arriving in the U.S. from her native Guadalajara, Mexico, with her two children, Irma Leticia (Lety) Munguia walked out of the U.S. District Courthouse here Friday an American citizen for the first time, clutching tightly onto her document.

Munguia joined 29 other people from 14 countries — many from Mexico, but others from countries in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa — in a naturalization ceremony presided over by U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Andrew Rodovich.

The ceremony was the end of a long, often rocky road for Munguia.

“I’m happy, very proud. She finally made it after all these years,” said her husband, Kenneth Arellano, a Texas native who attended the ceremony with his mother, Ruth Arellano Munguia.

Munguia said she didn’t believe becoming a citizen would make much of a difference but has changed her mind.

“It makes you more secure. It doesn’t give you more power, but more confidence. You can go where you want to go,” the 56-year-old Portage resident said.

The couple met when Arellano was studying to be an architect in Mexico. He later returned to the U.S., but Munguia had to remain in Mexico alone with her two older children for 18 months waiting for paperwork to go through that would make her a legal U.S. resident.

“It was a pretty rough 18 months. Today, with the Internet, things move faster. Back then, everything went through the mail. It took weeks for each paperwork,” Arellano said.

Frustrated, he wrote a letter to U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, who he said was able to speed the process up a bit.

The family settled in Portage and a third child was born here. At first, Munguia said, she found it difficult to adjust to her new country. Not knowing the language made it difficult, they only had one car and she had to learn how to drive here.

Munguia became a student in the English language program at Portage Adult Education, then became part of the organization. She started by working in the office and worked her way up to her current position of registrar.

“She is the glue that holds the place together,” said Rebecca Reiner, executive director of Neighbors’ Educational Opportunities Inc.

Munguia ran a yearlong citizenship class in the evening last year, to prepare herself and five other students for the citizenship test. She was the fourth in the group to pass. Another is about to take the test, and the sixth class member is beginning the paperwork to take it.

Munguia said studying for, and taking, the test was stressful in itself. There was so much information to learn, yet the test had only 10 questions, at least six of which she had to get right to pass.

The stress is now over, and there are many rights Munguia can now enjoy as a citizen, including the right to vote.

Representatives of the League of Women Voters were on hand to sign people up, and Rodovich encouraged the 30 new citizens to take advantage of the easy process.

“One of your duties and privileges as a citizen is the right to vote. I encourage you all to sign up today,” he said.

Munguia said being able to vote was one of her goals and one she intends to exercise in the next election.

She may even go one further.

“I can run for elected office. Maybe school board. Why not?” she said with a big smile.



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