Photo: Manuel Lara Lopez Takes the Oath
For the last 30 years, Mexican immigrant Manuel Lara Lopez has lived in the United States. In May, just months before finishing his citizenship course, Manuel was diagnosed with stage four intestinal cancer. His dying wish was to become a U.S. citizen, and that wish was granted this week in his South Austin backyard.
Lopez, 59, has been a legal resident for 20 years, and says he came from Mexico in 1979 of 1980 looking for a better life, and at the in-home ceremony he raised his right hand and pledged his loyalty to the United States and afterwards expressed his happiness saying he was “muy feliz” (very happy) and posed for his family members who were all snapping photos.
It was Lopez’s dying wish to become a U.S. citizen, and he says he wants his Mexican-born sons to “learn from Papa,” and remain on the path to citizenship.
Lopez was too weak to leave his house, so Tuesday, an officer from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services came to his home and administered the exam he was originally scheduled to take in January 2011, but wishing to grant him a Christmas wish, he was allowed to take it early.
“They normally wouldn’t be naturalized the following day,” said USCIS spokesperson Marilu Cabrera, but “because of his condition and it being so close to Christmas, we wanted to conduct a ceremony as soon as possible.”
It is unknown how many in-home ceremonies are done each year, but they are done in extreme cases like Manuel’s when a person is elderly, frail, are wounded soldiers, or are soldiers about to be deployed.
Lopez’s wife, Adelina Hernandez said he had been talking about it for a long time, and through tears, “spoke of his love for America and the bittersweetness of his dream finally becoming a reality so late in his life.”
He stated that becoming a citizen three days before Christ’s birthday, was “a Christmas gift” for him, and added, “Muchas gracias” to America.