Age Not an Obstacle to US Citizenship
“Even though I wanted to pursue my U.S. citizenship, I was a bit nervous, insecure, and even somewhat undecided at first. But when I went for the appointment to test my English and met the people there, everything changed. I found out I was more ready than I thought and that I could really be helped by this organization to get my dream of becoming an American citizen,” she stated.
When Doral resident Inés Dávila called the USCIS in South Florida for nearby services to prepare for naturalization, she didn’t know that the referral she was about to get—the IRC in Miami, recipient of a 2011 USCIS National Capacity Building Grant-- would turn out to be such a great match.
And for the staff, the feeling is mutual. “One thing I find remarkable about Inés, that sets her apart from the dozens of others I have tested over the past few months, is the combination of her age, her enthusiasm for citizenship, and her English ability, despite her 2005 arrival to the US. She’s such an inspiration and after her it’ll be hard to hear 30-year olds who came in 2000 say they’re just unable to learn English,” said Civics Instructor Dulce Reyes.
It is her active and persistent spirit that has put this 80-year old on the path to naturalization that seems to elude many in the Miami area, including those who are much younger and those in the US longer. Shortly after arrival, having fled the political situation in her native Venezuela, she registered for ESOL classes at a public school after being prompted to attend her grandson’s school’s adult ed program. “But I’m too old to learn English,” replied a 73-year old Dávila at the time. “Look, one thing about this country is that here you’re never too old for anything, especially for learning,” said the school staff. Two years later, after a weekly three-day class schedule, Dávila had reached the 4th level. Most local ESOL classes consider proficiency at levels 5-6. She has made up for the rest through household practice with her daughter and granddaughter, and frequent jousting over pronunciation with her five-year old great-grandaughter.
Dávila’s determination has paid off in other ways relevant to her goal. Her English learning ensured that she placed at the more advanced level at her IRC assessment. When classes begin this summer, she will sit next to students who by now have near-native fluency; will benefit from practice through mock interviews; and will continue to strengthen the four language skills, along with mastering the Civics aspect of the exam. Having had an initial pre-screening with Yauheniya Nechyparenka, the Immigration Caseworker, she will also be encouraged to file her N-400 form while still a student, so that the completion date would not be too far from the eventual naturalization interview.
“I can’t wait for the classes to start. I’m ready. I want to improve my English, learn more about the United States. I want to become a citizen because I’ve made and will continue to make my life here in this great country. I’m relaxed now and happy. And I want to vote. I’m looking forward to voting,” said Dávila.
No doubt she will, and the multi-tasker she is, she will likely take turns between her homework and her masterful preparation of Venezuelan appetizers for a wedding of 100, as the informal chef in her family’s home-based catering business.