Becoming legal US citizen remains a long, arduous process

The American Dream.

A lot of people want it, but it can be tough to achieve.

One Immokalee woman, who is on her way to becoming a U.S. citizen, says there’s a lot of struggles but help is available right here in Southwest Florida.

Raquel Hernandez still remembers the time she first crossed the Rio Grande River to get into the United States. Through a translator, she said, “We came here because there are many opportunities in this country.”

“At the moment of crossing the river, you don’t think [of] yourself anymore. I could only think [of] my daughters.”

She came here seeking U.S. citizenship, but it’s been a long process and the recent government shutdown is making things more complicated.

“The shutdown stops all the process for us because we can’t do anything,” Hernandez said.  “If the government says it won’t open we can only hope it actually happens.”

But she says non-profits in Southwest Florida are helping her seek legal status. Organizations like The Amigos Center, the Domestic Violence Center of Immokalee, and United Families are all helping find a way for immigrants to live here legally.

Immigration attorney Ana Mendieta says it’s non-profit organizations like these that help people who can’t afford costly programs.

“They have attorney’s, they send volunteers, they get all this help to people that cannot otherwise hire an attorney,” Mendieta said.

However, she says it’s not possible to know if a government shutdown can slow down the citizenship process. It all depends on the case.

Mendieta said, “If you ask me if somebody filed with USCIS are they being affected? I do not know. I would say most likely not. Why? Because they are a fee-based service. The applicant pays a fee to have their case processed, but most likely the shutdown would not have affected them.”

For now, Hernandez and her family are waiting to be at peace once again.

Reporter:Brea Hollingsworth
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