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Naturalization Ceremony

Friday September 29, 2006

1:30 PM

Marshall High School Theatre

 

The following article appeared in th Marshall Independent on Friday, September 29, 2006
Used by permission

 

Becoming a citizen in America.
By Rae Kruger - Independent Staff Writer

Khadija Adan
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 .

View Photos from the ceremony

Read the Marshall Independent editorial on the Citizenship

On the day of the test, “I was very nervous,” Adan said.

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.

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,” Adan said.

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,” Adan said.

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 said.

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.”
 

Salvador Talamantes
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 Minneota.

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 said.

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 said.

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,” Talamantes said.

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 citizenship tests.

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.
 

View Photos from the ceremony

 

Read the Marshall Independent editorial on the Citizenship

 

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