A woman living in Southern California has obtained United States citizenship even though she has no ability to read or write in any language, and does not know any English.
Jovita Mendez, an immigrant from Mexico, proudly announced in Spanish to NBC San Diego her achievement of obtaining U.S. citizenship.
“I didn’t think that I would be able to accomplish this, but I did it,” Mendez told NBC in Spanish. “I did it because my kids are here. They told me I needed to do this for myself, to have a future here.”
“I don’t know how to read, I don’t know how to write,” Mendez admitted.
Mendez is not a new arrival to the U.S. The Southern California woman has lived in the U.S. for 20 years, but says her inability to speak any English and to read or write previously held her back from obtaining citizenship.
To become a U.S. citizen, foreign nationals must pass a test by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), in which they must answer six out of ten questions about the U.S. correctly. The ten questions are randomly chosen from 100 questions that foreign nationals are expected to study.
Mendez was able to receive special accommodations for her citizenship test. Foreign nationals can give answers to the ten questions in their native language if they are over the age of 50 and have been living in the U.S. for at least 20 years.
Teacher Maribel Solache, who teaches U.S. citizenship classes for immigrants, helped Mendez memorize the answers. “My job was to empower her and make her believe that she could do it – that her limitations were in her head. It wasn’t the language barrier; it wasn’t that she couldn’t read or write, it was her own insecurities,” Solache told NBC.
After passing the U.S. citizenship test, Mendez pushed through tears to proudly announce her newly-minted permanent status.
“I am a U.S. citizen now,” Mendez said. “I wanted something more for myself, and I did it.”