As people throughout the valley anticipate the United States’ celebration of independence, so do those seeking the freedom that comes with being a citizen of the country.
One of these people is Paradise resident Jorge Mora, who is taking classes in a citizenship preparation course through Congress of Racial Equality. Mora, a Mexico native and longtime Las Vegas resident, said he embarked on the citizenship process for his family.
“I have five boys, all born in the United States, and I made my decision to become a citizen for them,” Mora said.
Mora came to the United States in 1974 with his parents when he w as 14 years old. He spent several years in California, establishing a family of his own before moving to Las Vegas. That was more than a decade ago, and since then, Mora has worked in the hospitality department of casinos, providing what he can for his family and working his way toward the American dream.
This family man, however, wants more.
“If you have a green card, it’s nothing,” Mora said. “I made the decision to be a citizen to be more, to do more. I’m here in this country, and I have to fight to be here.”
Mora said he decided to enroll in CORE’s Join America classes to prepare for the naturalization test. He has learned various aspects of U.S. history, the Constitution and how his future contributions as a citizen play a role in society.
Niger Innis, spokesman for CORE, said instructors work to provide more than just a history lesson to class attendees.
“These instructors don’t just teach to the test – they teach to the rationale,” Innis said. “They don’t start the history with 1776. It starts with 1492. It’s a Western civilization course as much as an American history course. We also talk abo ut personal responsibility and self-reliance.”
Mora said that though he’s learning about Americans’ history and ways of life, retaining the amount of information can be difficult.
“I’ve been learning a lot, but it’s been very hard because I’m studying so many things,” Mora said. “I think, for myself, it’s hard to learn to speak English. Every day, every year, it’s harder to learn English. But I’m happy to learn because I’ve been waiting a long time.”
Innis said the language barrier is one of the biggest challenges for class participants, which is why having bilingual instructors and mentors are imperative to their success. There’s another challenge, however, that Innis tries to overcome with several students.
“The biggest barrier for minorities – and not just for immigrants but for native-born people – is the mentality of entitlement,” Innis said. “People think, ‘America, you owe me something.’ It’s a mythology that cripples the human spirit, and that is a mentality we are desperately fighting against.”
But Mora’s mentality is different. He views citizenship as a privilege and recognizes the work that goes into the process.
“I’ve been interested for so long to be a citizen of the United States,” Mora said. “I see people fight for their rights. That’s what I want to do … If I’m a citizen, I can vote, and I have a voice.”
Becoming a citizen can take years for some people or as little as weeks for others, according to Innis. Mora participates in weekly classes that he has attended for a couple of months and will continue to take them until he’s certain about the chances of passing the naturalization test.
Although some students hope to pass the test and participate in swearing-in ceremonies within the next few weeks, Mora errs on the side of caution, setting a goal to be prepared for his moment come November.
He hopes to set an example for those interested in becoming American citizens.
“People try to become citizens, and they can’t do it because they don’t know English,” Mora said. “We need to make it easier for them. I’m ready to say, ‘I’m here now.’ I don’t want to be hiding anymore.”
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Lisa Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 383-4686.