American citizenship. It's the dream many immigrants have when they come to this country.
Locally, there's a group that's offering to help achieve that dream. Before an immigrant becomes a citizen, they have to go through a lengthy process that includes a test that continues to get more difficult.
Last weekend the League of United Latin American Citizen Council (LULAC) helped U.S. citizen hopefuls work towards the American Dream.
Sergio Duran attended the LULAC workshop and said he and his family moved from Zacatecas, Mexico when he was a teenager.
"We just decided to move here to live a better life," said Duran.
Since moving to California 27 years ago, Duran married his high school sweetheart and has had two children. Now he said he has the opportunity to become a U.S. citizen.
Duran said, "More peace of mind and stay here with my kids forever. Let's say forever, or at least for as long as I live."
Saturday Duran attended the LULAC citizenship workshop. During the workshop LULAC brought a group of immigration lawyers to East Bakersfield High School to help citizenship applicants fill out their paperwork and understand the process and questions to become citizens.
Local LULAC chapter president, Rick Garcia, said, "I think immigrants are very important to our economy. And that's kind of the push is we've got good people here, they want to become citizens."
However immigration lawyer Hadley Bajramovic said becoming a U.S. citizen is harder today than even two years ago. She said the process has become longer and tougher, especially when it comes to the oral questions. Bajramovic said immigration officers used to use their discretion and only ask questions they thought would apply to each applicant.
"And today in the interviews, the officers are required to ask every question of every applicant. That can confuse an applicant, it can make an applicant nervous and cause the interview to go downhill even to failure which is unnecessary," said Bajramovic.
But for Duran, he says it's important for him to finish the process so he can stay in Bakersfield with his family, especially since his parents just became citizens.
"These people are very helpful and it's been a good day. It's been a good way to spend our Saturday, receiving help," said Duran.
Those three dozen applicants who attended Saturday's workshop will have one more workshop this upcoming Saturday. For those who missed the workshop you can find more information about how LULAC can help with the citizenship process on their website kclulac.org or where you can sign up for a future class at www.kernliteracy.org/services.html .