UNA student gains citizenship, encourages students to vote

by Managing Editor Jasmine Fleming

“I was crying, honestly. It’s just something that’s so emotional because I didn’t think I would have that chance to make my voice heard. I feel like now I can.”

After years of waiting and many legal processes, junior Dalia Rendon became a U.S. citizen and gained the one thing some take for granted: the right to vote.

It took until age 15 for Rendon to become a U.S. resident. She waited an additional five years to become a citizen, Rendon said.

After gaining citizenship, Rendon’s next goal was registering to vote, which she did at a Student Government Association booth last year.

“I feel like it’s really important to make your voice heard and to educate yourself about the candidates and what they stand for to make an educated vote,” she said. “But, I feel like some people don’t see the privilege that they have because others have to work harder, like me. They need to appreciate it and take advantage of it.”

Rendon said she plans to vote in campus, local and national elections when opportunities arise, and she hopes other students do the same.

Registering Rendon was exciting and memorable, said junior Sarah Green, the legislative affairs chair for the Senate branch of SGA.

“I think often times we take the right to vote for granted and forget how big of a deal it is,” Green said. “But that day, I was reminded of the importance, and it is definitely an experience I will never forget.”

Rendon said she was 3 years old when her family moved to the U.S. from Mexico, she said.

“When I started school, I didn’t know any English, so I learned it all in kindergarten and first grade,” she said.

The road to citizenship takes 15 years to travel.

The resident process requires 10 years of living in the country first. Rendon became a resident in the ninth grade, and most of her family became residents at the same time.

“After that, I could go to college because I was here legally,” she said.

In 2014, around 3 percent of the Alabama population were foreign-born immigrants like Rendon, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Around 1.5 of every two of those immigrants were noncitizens as well.

“I was crying, honestly. It’s just something that’s so emotional because I didn’t think I would have that chance to make my voice heard. I feel like now I can.”

After years of waiting and many legal processes, junior Dalia Rendon became a U.S. citizen and gained the one thing some take for granted: the right to vote.

It took until age 15 for Rendon to become a U.S. resident. She waited an additional five years to become a citizen, Rendon said.

After gaining citizenship, Rendon’s next goal was registering to vote, which she did at a Student Government Association booth last year.

“I feel like it’s really important to make your voice heard and to educate yourself about the candidates and what they stand for to make an educated vote,” she said. “But, I feel like some people don’t see the privilege that they have because others have to work harder, like me. They need to appreciate it and take advantage of it.”

Rendon said she plans to vote in campus, local and national elections when opportunities arise, and she hopes other students do the same.

Registering Rendon was exciting and memorable, said junior Sarah Green, the legislative affairs chair for the Senate branch of SGA.

“I think often times we take the right to vote for granted and forget how big of a deal it is,” Green said. “But that day, I was reminded of the importance, and it is definitely an experience I will never forget.”

Rendon said she was 3 years old when her family moved to the U.S. from Mexico, she said.

“When I started school, I didn’t know any English, so I learned it all in kindergarten and first grade,” she said.

The road to citizenship takes 15 years to travel.

The resident process requires 10 years of living in the country first. Rendon became a resident in the ninth grade, and most of her family became residents at the same time.

“After that, I could go to college because I was here legally,” she said.

In 2014, around 3 percent of the Alabama population were foreign-born immigrants like Rendon, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Around 1.5 of every two of those immigrants were noncitizens as well.

In the same group, more than one in five immigrants had a high school diploma or GED and more than one in three had some college experience or held an associate or bachelor’s degree.

After five years of being a resident, Rendon was able to apply for citizenship in March 2015, her sophomore year at UNA.

Much like when becoming a resident, the citizenship process included background checks and health screenings. In addition, Rendon took a test with English sections for reading and writing and a U.S. history section.

“Usually, you either pass or fail, and if you pass, they make you go home,” she said. “You come back another day, and your ceremony goes on, and you get a certificate. But for us, they gave us our certificate the same day.

“We took the oath that we’re leaving all other alliances to all countries behind and we’re going to just be American. “

To take the citizenship test, Rendon had to miss classes at UNA. However, missing school for this reason was easy to excuse, said English Instructor Pamela Kingsbury, who was one of her instructors at the time.

Although she said all students deal with stress, Kingsbury said going through the citizenship process while in college is unique and admirable.

“It was definitely a pleasure to welcome her into being an American citizen,” she said. “I was happy to do it. I’m delighted that she’s an American citizen now.”