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Path to U.S. citizenship quarter century long journey for one man, luck of the draw for another

The path to U.S. citizenship was a quarter-century-long journey fraught with risk of deportation for Mexican-born Ernesto Rosas. For Nigerian native Chiawalam, it was the luck of a lottery. As of June 24, both proudly call themselves U.S. citizens.
BY RANDY ELLIS rellis@opubco.com Published: July 17, 2011

The path to U.S. citizenship was a quarter-century journey fraught with risk of deportation for Ernesto Rosas, who was born in Mexico.

For Nigerian native Chiawalam, who goes by only one name, it was largely the luck of a lottery.

Now both proudly can call themselves U.S. citizens.

Rosas and Chiawalam were among about 90 people from 29 countries who successfully navigated the complex system of immigration laws to be sworn in as U.S. citizens at a naturalization ceremony June 24 at the Oklahoma City federal courthouse.

The path through immigration to citizenship is never easy, participants said. For some, however, it is much easier than others.

Rosas said he was just 14 years old when he and his family slipped across the border into the United States in 1984. Actually, he had to do it twice because he had a high fever the first time and had to go back.

Rosas said he went to junior high and high school in California before moving to Oklahoma shortly before the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. He now is self-employed and operates a landscaping business in Altus.

Rosas said he has been striving to attain resident immigrant and more recently citizenship status since 1987 — shortly after President Ronald Reagan approved a 1986 immigrant amnesty program. However, he said certain things about his case made obtaining approval difficult.

Rosas said he met and married his wife while she was a resident alien in the United States, and the two invested their time and money in getting her approved as a citizen first — a process that moved along more quickly than what he had personally experienced.

After she became a citizen seven or eight years ago, Rosas said he was able to obtain his immigrant visa (green card) based on his marital status.

He then had to go through the required five-year period of demonstrating he would be a good citizen and taking tests to show he had knowledge of this country's government and history before he could finally become a citizen.

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