Citizenship Requires Study

New American citizen Alicia Bernard (middle) posed for a photo with her husband Robert Bernard and their daughter Mercy at the US Department of Homeland Security in Oklahoma City after taking her American citizenship oath. Her study to become an American citizen proved to be successful after a year of preparation in meeting the requirements for naturalization.

Do you remember how many amendments the Constitution has? What kind of government does the United States have? Who is the Chief Justice of the United States now?

These are the kinds of questions Granite resident Alicia Bernard, a native of Mexico, answered correctly on a written U.S. history and government test for citizenship at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services in Oklahoma City on February 26. The examination also included an interview over these questions to determine that she could speak English as Spanish was her native language.

Because of her passing these examinations along with a background check and having been a legal permanent resident for at least five years, Mrs. Bernard took her citizenship oath on April 7th. She, along with all the other 44 immigrants from 28 countries, pledged allegiance to the United States in the ceremony at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Oklahoma City. Her husband Robert Bernard and their daughter Mercy were able to attend the ceremony.

“I am very happy and feel different in some ways as a new American,” said Mrs. Bernard. “After the ceremony, my daughter gave me an American flag charm for my bracelet that I wear to remind me of this great privilege. I am very thankful to all who helped me.”

Alicia only spoke Spanish and had no driver’s license when she was able to visit the Texas border towns, including El Paso, with a passport for limited periods of time. While in El Paso, she met her future Army husband. In 1992, she became a permanent resident with her “green card”.

Alicia’s road to US citizenship began February 19, 2014 when she and her husband visited the Great Plains Literacy Council at the Altus Public Library. The GPLC staff enrolled her in the English and citizenship literacy tutoring sessions taught once a week by Bilingual Facilitator Elsa Garcia at the Altus Public Library. She faithfully attended this weekly class. In June 2014 Alicia sent in her N-400 application and fee. Volunteer tutor Steve Francis also worked with her on interview skills prior to her taking the citizenship tests on February 26. On that date, she successfully passed the examinations.

Bernard has worked at the Granite School as a cafeteria cook for seven years. After attending the citizenship ceremony, she was surprised that the teachers and students complimented her so much for accepting the challenge. Even the kindergarten children signed a giant card for her, plus giving her a bouquet of red, white and blue fresh flowers.

Bernard has been very appreciative and an advocate of literacy this past year. This Southern Prairie Library System patron has recruited another ESL learner who has started his naturalization path.

To find out more about literacy services from the Great Plains Literacy Council, contact the Altus Public Library, 421 N. Hudson, or call 477-2890.

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