Tulsa man achieves his dream of becoming a citizen
Jose Escalera celebrates his citizenship at his ceremony in Tulsa, OK
As an 18 year old, Jose Escalera visited family in Tulsa on vacation. During his visit, he quickly recognized the possibilities America offered.
"In Mexico, my family had land that we farmed," said Esalera. "It was very hard work. We worked from sunrise to sunset every day. The United States offered a better life."
Escalera continued to live with family in Tulsa and began to work. He worked two jobs, one of which was at a restaurant where he was a cook, and quickly was made butcher. In 1986, the U.S. offered amnesty to people who had been in the country continuously since 1982. Escalera called YWCA Tulsa for the first time that year.
Once amnesty was granted, Escalera needed to wait ten years before he could apply for citizenship. He continued to work in hopes of one day becoming a citizen. However, after a car accident made him quadriplegic, Escalera became worried that he would never reach this goal.
Several years ago, after the YWCA employee Escalera worked with previously left, he began working with Laura Jaimes. An immigration apprentice at YWCA Tulsa, she has since assisted Jose throughout the immigration process.
"They have helped with everything," said Escalera. "Every time I have had to apply for my green card, when I applied for citizenship... I can call Laura about anything I need."
"[After the accident] I didn't have the money for the citizenship application," he said.
But, with the help of YWCA Tulsa, he was able to apply and qualify for a program that would help with the cost. He studied at home for the test, passed and was sworn in last year at a ceremony in Tulsa.
Escalera will vote in his first presidential election in 2016, one of the aspects of citizenship he was most excited about.
When asked what he would tell anyone considering citizenship, he said, "If we want to live in the USA, we have to become a citizen. We have more rights. That is the only way we can get better jobs and better schools for our kids. It is the way toward a better life where we can help others."