Becoming a citizen in America.
By Rae Kruger - Independent Staff Writer
The worst is far behind her - Nothing. That's how much English
Khadija Adan could speak and understand when she arrived in
America seven years ago.
“When I came here, nothing. I don't understand, I don't speak,
nothing,” Adan said.
Seven years later, she's confident in her English skills, and
planning to obtain her GED and attend college.
And she's a United States citizen.
She passed her test in May.
Achieving citizenship, “was very hard,” Adan said. She learned
about America and its government, she learned the 100 questions
and answers, Adan said.
“My (Adult Basic Education) teacher
was very good,” Adan said.
Khadija Adan and
Salvador Talamantes are two examples of people who have an idea
of what it takes to become a citizen of the United States. Their
stories no doubt have some similarities with those of the 36
southwestern Minnesota residents who will be sworn in as
American citizens at today’s naturalization ceremony .
Photos from the ceremony
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|On the day of the test, “I was very nervous,”
She remembered what her ABE teacher said about looking the
interviewer in the eye and holding her head high with
confidence, Adan said.
“I got a nice (interviewer),” Adan said. “At first, we made
conversation. After five minutes, he said 'you speak English
wonderfully.' Then, I was feeling better,” Adan said.
“I was very happy when I became a citizen,” Adan said. “I feel
better because I'm a citizen. Everything is OK for me. I'm very
happy.” It wasn't that long ago when things were far from OK for
Adan owned a store in her homeland of Somalia.
“I had a lot of money, I had my own shop,” Adan said.
Until one day, “a group of men took my shop. They took
everything out of my shop. They beat me up and left me.” Adan
cringes when she tells the story.
Beaten, her shop in shambles and her country in the midst of
war, Adan had nowhere to go.
Some Somalis had fled to Yemen, and Adan decided to follow. For
eight years Adan lived in fear of her life, in fear of beatings
and in fear of not having anything to live on although she
worked cleaning houses.
“Those were bad years,” Adan said. “I don't like to (think) of
that. All the time there was abuse. They'd yell at me in the
street. (Men) would ask 'why do you do that' then tell me 'shut
up you Somalia woman.' “In Yemen, it was difficult everywhere,”
She was beaten in the homes where she worked. Or, “sometimes
after you worked hard “they'd say, 'no money (for you), go
home.' You said OK because you'd want to save your life or not
get hurt,” Adan said.
She applied to immigrate to the United States, and when she was
notified of her acceptance, “that day I was very, very happy,”
By way of New York and Minneapolis, Adan arrived in Marshall
about two months after she first arrived in the United States
seven years ago.
She came to stay with an aunt already in Marshall.
“I was here (Marshall) for one week and I started work at
Heartland (now Turkey Valley Farms),” Adan said.
She worked at Heartland until it closed several years ago and
then went to work at a food processor in Windom. She worked at
Windom until she was injured in a car accident.
“I can't work now, I'm on disability,” Adan said.
Adan knew she wanted to improve her English skills as soon as
she arrived in America.
“I wanted to learn English,” Adan said.
English classes through Marshall's Adult Basic Education gave
her that chance.
Adan diligently attends classes and will criticize others who
don't attend as often. “People say 'why do you go everyday?' I
tell them I want to go every day. I want to learn better,” Adan
Adan has found an independence she didn't have in Somalia or
Yemen, she said.
“Women are not free in Somalia,” Adan said.
Although she owned her own shop, she was still under the control
of men, including her then husband, Adan said. “I saw that here,
women are free. They can talk, they can work, they can go to
school. They can have a separate check from their husband,” Adan
said. “In Somalia, a woman cannot live in an apartment alone.
Here, I can live in an apartment, I can talk on the phone, I can
go out alone. My life is good.”
Looking ahead to a new life Salvador Talamantes of Marshall has
a full life. He and his wife, Monica, have four children - two
sons and twin daughters. They own a home in Marshall. He plays
on a local softball team during the summer. They enjoy time
together as a family and watching their children participate in
park and recreation activities. Talamantes has a job he likes in
But Talamantes wants more.
Talamantes wants to be a United States citizen.
“I want to be a citizen for my family, for my family to stay
here,” Talamantes said.
Talamantes' children and wife are already U.S. citizens.
Citizenship would give him a greater sense of security and
comfort living in a town, state and country he likes, Talamantes
He's been taking classes since April to prepare for his
citizenship test and interview on Oct. 25.
Not long after he arrived in the U.S. in 1996, he started to
take English classes in Granite Falls.
“I went to school for a couple of days in Granite Falls, but I
would work, drive to Granite Falls, come back, it was
stupid...,” Talamantes said.
Although he gave up classes for some years, Talamantes still
knew he wanted to obtain citizenship. That's why he enrolled in
the Marshall Adult Basic Education class in April.
Instructor Delores Johnson works with students on English
speaking and writing skills. She also teaches about United
States government and other civic topics.
Obtaining citizenship is not an easy task, Johnson said.
Students are interviewed by an Immigration and Naturalization
Service employee and that can be intimidating, Johnson said.
Johnson said students need to know the answer to 100 possible
questions they may be asked in an interview for citizenship.
They may not get asked all 100 questions - they may get asked 10
or less but they need to know the answers, Johnson said.
Students must also demonstrate a proficiency to speak, read and
write English, Johnson said.
Johnson said she stresses that students have a good
understanding of the government, and basic civil rights and
civic understanding. It's not enough to know the answers to
questions, students need to learn about the Bill of Rights, the
Civil War and other important parts of American history, Johnson
During a recent session with Talamantes, Johnson was using a
U.S. map and learning cards to teach him about the three
branches of government.
“I really try to impress upon them what it means to be a
citizen,” Johnson said.
“I get more help from the teacher,” Talamantes said of the
class. “She explains everything more. She will tell me, 'this is
right or this is not right.'” Talamantes attended school in
Durango, Mexico, until the ninth grade. He learned limited
English in school but said the teacher wasn't very good. And as
a kid, he didn't pay that much attention.
“After school, I worked with the cows,” Talamantes said of the
family's herd of cows in Durango. He has no desire to return to
Mexico permanently, Talamantes said.
“In Mexico you work too hard for not much pay. Maybe $100 a
week, and you work from 7 in the morning until 6 at night,”
Even if he did return, “there would be no work,” he said.
Not even with the family's cow herd, he said.
“Here, there are more jobs, more benefits,” Talamantes said of
Marshall and America.
Johnson said Talamantes had made significant progress in his
English skills and knowledge of America.
Talamantes said he spoke only a little English when he moved to
America in 1996. Now, his goal is to translate at his work place
for Latino employees with limited English skills, he said.
Talamantes has family in the region. His father and mother live
in Renville. Other family members live in Wyoming and Texas.
More family lives in Mexico.
His father and a brother in Texas recently passed their
Talamantes' goal is to pass Oct. 25. If he doesn't, “I will try
again.” •The naturalization ceremony is at 1:30 p.m. today at
the Schwan Center for the Performing Arts at the new Marshall
High School. Adult Basic Education has invited area students to
attend the event, as well as the public at large.