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Challenges and Triumphs on the Road to American Citizenship

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This spring, the Immigration team at the IRC in Silver Spring was delighted to see one of our clients, Mrs. Meazu Gobena, become a citizen of the United States. Mrs. Meazu’s path to citizenship was difficult. The perseverance and resolve she demonstrated make her an inspiration to all. Meazu’s journey began in Ethiopia. When she was three years old, she became gravely ill. After a series of bad reactions to a series of shots, which were intended to help with her illness, she experienced damage to her hearing and became completely deaf. This did not deter Meazu, however, as she went on to finish high school and to graduate from Addis Ababa University, where she received her degree in Ethiopian sign language.

Meazu first came to the U.S. in 2010 and gained her asylum shortly thereafter. With the help of the IRC, she applied for and received her green card in 2011. With the assistance of the Ethiopian deaf community and the IRC, Meazu found a job at Gallaudet University. She worked in the food service sector for two years. After Gallaudet University, Meazu found a job as a janitor in the U.S. Capitol. Sadly, she was laid off after twelve months. After losing her job, Meazu struggled to find permanent work for two years. This period was challenging for Meazu who grew worried for her future. She remained resilient amidst her troubles, however, and did not lose hope amidst her troubles.

Meazu Gobena, holding her U.S. Citizenship Certificate, on the day of her naturalization.

In 2016, Meazu came back to the IRC to begin her application for American citizenship. With help from Rachel Mogga, Immigration Services Coordinator at the IRC in Silver Spring, Meazu began her application. She was unwavering in her desire to ace the rigorous interview that is a part of the citizenship process so she began studying the day she started her application. For nearly a year, she read, wrote, and rehearsed the interview questions. Before her citizenship interview, Meazu came for a mock interview session with Rachel and left feeling prepared. On the day of the interview, Meazu felt confident and prepared for the test. With her friend interpreting, Meazu correctly answered all the questions the officer asked. At the end, Meazu recalls, the officer wrote, “Congratulations, you have passed the test!” on a piece of paper and showed it to her. A month later, Meazu was sworn in as a United States citizen.

Since coming to the United States, Meazu has not been able to go back to Ethiopia or see her family. A few years ago she got married and gave birth to a beautiful daughter named Marissa. Celebrating joyous milestones like her marriage and the birth of her child have been bittersweet while she was separated for her family. Now, as an American citizen, Meazu will be able to celebrate these achievements and joy with her family. With her daughter in tow, Meazu will be leaving for Ethiopia at the end of July, to see her homeland and family for the first time after leaving over seven years ago.

The IRC Silver Spring office helped Mrs. Meazu throughout the entire citizenship process. From her intake, to her interview, to her oath ceremony, Rachel Mogga and her team supported Mrs. Meazu. On the day of her oath ceremony—the day she became an American citizen— Meazu stopped by the office to see Rachel and talk about her experience. With her husband interpreting, Mrs. Meazu spoke about the ceremony and how excited she was to become a U.S. citizen. She was grateful to the immigration team for the help she received and to Rachel for preparing her for the interview. The Immigration Team at the IRC in Silver Spring feels equally grateful to Meazu, and is proud of all she has accomplished since coming to the U.S.