Utah Immigrant Prepares To Take Citizenship Test As House Considers SB60
Gabrela Woodworth understands that if she wants to become an American citizen, she’s going to have to compete with hundreds of thousands of others who share the dream of citizenship. She knows the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will process approximately 680,000 citizens this year. She also knows the process of naturalization requires her to be able to speak, read and write English.
“Some people learn faster than another one and I’m not that person. I’m pretty slow learner,” Woodworth said.
Woodworth, who is from Argentina, met her American husband while he was serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She has lived in Utah for the last 20 years and helps support her family of five by cleaning homes for eight hours a day. Once a year she works a part-time job at a local factory.
“I been cleaning houses since I was 14. To be a citizen, to speak English without an accent, like reading, like, read really well in English and speak my English really well too. After that, go back to school and I want to do dentist assistant or maybe have my own business in crafting or something like that,” Woodworth said.
She said her grandmother cleaned for other people her entire life and she knows it’s hard on your body. Woodworth wants a different career but that’s not the only reason she wants to become a citizen.
"You can vote. I never had the chance to do that in my own country 'cause I came to this country when I was 19 years old," Woodworth said. "I don’t know how that feels...I want to do that and I want to for my kids, feels like, ‘Oh my mom, she’s progressing.’”
All of her clients speak English and this, she said, forces her to use and develop her language skills. To help her, some of the clients refuse to allow her to speak and text in Spanish.
“I speak more English then. I read too, but my weakness is the writing, so I’m afraid about that,” Woodworth said.
It was while living in Argentina for 19 years that Woodworth learned how to work hard, giving her the tenacity she will need if she hopes to meet the requirements for citizenship. If she doesn’t get her citizenship soon, she will need to return to her home country for several months before being allowed to return to Logan.
“You work a lot over there for really little money. Over here, you work hard but you see what you can get with you work. Over there you cannot get as much unless you finish school and get a degree, but it depends on the degree you have too.”
Before completing the citizenship test, Woodworth will have to complete her GED while she is working full time. She is not worried, this type of balancing act is nothing new for her.
“We have to grow up muy, muy young when we were little," Woodworth said. "I had to take care of my youngest brother and sister, my older sister and I. We had to run a house since we were little. I was like six, seven years old when we running the house. My sister was like seven years old, 'cause my mom and dad had to go to work and over there you had to work long hours.”
There are long hours ahead for Woodworth as she hopes to become one of the thousands of international residents who will qualify to become a U.S. citizen.