Henderson family talks about their journey to America and becoming citizens

After about 19 years of processing paperwork while living in the Philippines and eight years of living in the United States, three members of the Siglos family were sworn in as U.S. citizens at a June 14 ceremony.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services hosted the event at North Las Vegas City Hall, 2250 Las Vegas Blvd. North.

“It is a dream come true,” Minerva Siglos said. “I cried as it happened.”

Seven members of the Siglos family – Teodoro, Minerva and five of their children – arrived in Las Vegas on May 17, 2004.

Minerva said her sixth child was already older with a family and decided to stay in the Philippines.

It took nearly 19 years to process their paperwork from the Philippines after Teodoro’s mother, who was living in Las Vegas, petitioned for the family to come over.

Minerva said every time they would send updated information to comply with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, it would take a while to hear back from officials.

“And everything got harder after
9/11,” Minerva said.

In addition to stricter policies after 9/11 and raising money to pay to immigrate, one of Minerva’s sons was almost taken off the paperwork because of his age. Minerva said once someone turns 21, he has to apply for a separate petition rather than stay on the family’s petition .

“We knew he was approaching 21, so we said we needed to expedite the paperwork,” Minerva said.

The immigration department realized its error and allowed Minerva’s son to stay with the family despite his age .

All their friends in the Philippines assumed that because the family was moving to America, they would automatically become rich.

“All they saw were dollars,” Minerva laughed.

Since they moved to Henderson, the family has returned to the Philippines twice. Minerva said people there treated the family like royalty because they were able to make it to America.

Arriving in the U.S., the family had to deal with language barriers and cultural shock.

“It is too different,” said Jane Siglos, Minerva’s daughter. “People don’t respect their elders like we do.”

Jane said she doesn’t like the mind-set that once a child turns 18, she needs to move out of her parents’ house.

“I’m 19 and I’m not ready,” Jane said.

Minerva said American culture is overworked.

“You have to work, work, work, work, work to survive,” Minerva said. “It leaves less time for the family.”

Family members, who live in a gated community in Henderson, said it is strange not to be connected with their neighbors.

“Back there, everyone knows each other,” Minerva said. “When you needed something, the entire community would rally around you. But now we don’t even know our neighbors.”

For Jane, sixth grade was hard because all she could say in English was “hello” and “How are you doing?”

“You can’t make friends with just those phrases,” Jane said. “I was kind of a loner the first few months. I got picked on a lot. People would make fun of me because I was Asian.”

Despite the bullying, Jane said she did well in school and received straight A’s throughout middle school.

“I was already advanced (back in the Philippines),” Jane said.

Her older sister, who was more advanced with English, would explain many of Jane’s assignments, allowing her to catch on.

“It took me about three months to learn English,” Jane said.

In high school, Jane started making friends and found life to be a little easier.

“My friends think it is so cool I was born in another country,” Jane said, adding that she doesn’t see anything special about it.

Minerva was a registered nurse in the Philippines, working in a school , and was shocked to find that her skill set didn’t matter in her new country. She had to start her nursing education over .

“I started in the lowest possible position,” Minerva said.

In 2006, she became a licensed practical nurse and now works at the Nevada State Veterans Home in Boulder City.

Despite the difficulties of adjusting to American life, the family was excited to become U.S. citizens.

Jane, Minerva and Teodoro went through the naturalization process, allowing Minerva’s two younger children, who are younger than 18, to automatically become citizens, according to immigration law.

“It is nice to finally be able to become a citizen,” Jane said. “Now when I go in for a job, I can say I am American.”

Jane said she used to answer that she wasn’t a U.S. citizen on job applications, which she believed hindered her from obtaining employment. She also said she wasn’t able to apply for as many grants as she wanted to help pay for school .

“I want to get my bachelor’s in nursing and be like my mom,” Jane said. “Then I want to join the (U.S.) Air Force.”

Two of Minerva’s other children who are older than 18 are still in the process of completing their citizenship.

Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at mlyle@viewnews.com or 387-5201.

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