Ana earned her citizenship two years ago, and that moment was one of the proudest of her life. Following extensive preparation, she had demonstrated her knowledge of American history, government, and current events during an in-person exam.
She had postponed submitting her application for years because she was worried that she would fail the test. But when her husband was diagnosed with cancer, she felt a sudden sense of urgency: if anything were to happen to him, she would have more rights and protections as a citizen than as a resident. Over the course of a few months, Ana filed her paperwork, had her fingerprints taken, and started studying for the test in earnest. “I was in my car with the CD every day,” she said, referring to an audiobook that came with a printed study guide for the exam. “Even my little kid knew the answers.” She passed the test and was sworn in as a citizen in 2016.
The accomplishment boosted her confidence and strengthened her resolve: “I’m proud of myself,” she said. “From then I started putting more in myself.”
Now that she has gained her citizenship, Ana wants to continue her education. Her GED certificate from Mexico isn’t valid in the United States, so she hopes to start working on her GED and someday even go to college. “My expectation is to continue my dreams,” she said. “For some reason they stopped. Now I have two kids and a job. My husband helps me a lot at home, but I want to continue my dreams.”
She also wants to advocate for undocumented immigrants so they can achieve financial independence. “When you come to another country, it’s not easy,” she said. “Coming to a different county with no language at all, no money, and saying ‘I can do this job. I want that opportunity.’ I think they [immigrants] should get that opportunity. Everybody working together can make this country better.”
This portrait and story are part of "A Place to Call Home," a special exhibition by writer and photographer Lori Compas at the Hoard Historical Museum in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.