A 102-year-old Filipino man who came to the United States in 1928 became an American citizen Wednesday at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
“I’m happy,” Philippines-born immigrant Joaquin Arciago Guzman said after the ceremony where 7,300 others joined him in taking the citizenship oath. Guzman came to the United States in 1928 when he was just a teenager. He came to the country to harvest lettuce and cabbage in the Salinas Valley fields south of San Francisco, reports NY Daily. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services, only 27 people older than 100 have taken the oath in the last 50 years. “It’s extremely rare to see anyone over 100,” said Nancy Alby, the agency’s field office director for Los Angeles County. “We get a handful in their 90s and 80s. It’s more common to see people in their 70s.”
At the ceremony, Guzman’s niece and caregiver helped him out of his wheelchair so that he could stand during the Pledge of Allegiance and sing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” notes MSNBC.
“It’s hard to believe that he first came to the U.S. in 1928 and didn’t become a citizen until he was 102 years old,” niece Julie Guzman said afterwards. “I’m happy for him. There are no words.”
Unfortunately, Guzman’s wife, Paz, dies in 2007 at the age of 89. Guzman’s daughter-in-law regretted that Paz wasn’t there to see the ceremony. “It’s sad because she waited many years for him to become a citizen,” she said. “But I believe she’s looking down on us now, and she’s happy.”
Guzman returned to the Philippines with the money he had earned here where he started a family. He returned to the U.S. with his wife and children in 1984. They all became citizens, but Guzman waited for reasons unclear.
A truly inspiring American story.