They’re in Their 70s, Just Became American Citizens—and Just Cast Their First Vote

Image via Zoom screengrab.

By jacquelinnemejia

November 3, 2020

“You have to have courage to become a citizen,” Rafael Serrano said. “Everyone should take advantage of that opportunity.”

Rafael Serrano,74, and his wife Carmela, 70, from Jalisco, Mexico, attained their American citizenship just in time for this year’s presidential election.

After residing in Hawaiian Gardens in Los Angeles County, California with their children for almost three decades, the Serranos decided to take their citizenship test this year and had their son Juan Serrano by their side as their interpreter.

“We waited for a long time due to the reason that I didn’t have time to go to school. […] They told me I had to wait 15 years of being a resident, and that then I could become a citizen and take the test in Spanish,” Carmela told The Americano during a Zoom video interview from her family’s home in Mexico.

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The Serranos studied diligently by having their children quiz them on questions.

“When you go [to take the test], you’re all nervous, but when they gave me my certificate, I kissed it and started jumping up and down,” Rafael Serrano said. 

Carmela attained her citizenship in February, and Rafael followed soon after in June. 

“If it was up to me, I would have become a citizen [when I first arrived] to be able to vote. It’s so important that us Latinos become citizens, and vote, and see who to choose that will help us as Hispanics,” Carmela continued.   

The Serranos and their children are staunch supporters of the Democratic party, and when it came time to drop off their ballots at their nearest secure ballot drop box, the ballot had blue down the line. 

“We voted for Joe, Joe Biden,” Carmela said as she smiled and looked at Rafael.

“The Democrats, the way I see it, are very fair—they look at those at the top and those at the bottom. And well, this man [President Donald Trump] has left a very sour taste in our mouths; he only looks out for those at the top and doesn’t see those at the bottom,” Rafael said. 

If their candidate wins the presidency, Carmela said one of the most important issue she hopes Biden takes up is to provide some sort of amnesty for undocumented farm workers.

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“I would like from the bottom of my heart for him [Biden] to open up some type of amnesty. Many farm workers of my people, from Mexico, do not have their papers. That is something that is very important [to me],” Carmela said.  

As for those who are timid or feel their time has passed to attain citizenship, the Serranos offer some words of encouragement.

“When you decide and you say, ‘No, we can all do it,’ and you take that first step—for me from my heart I can say this to everyone—you have to have courage to become a citizen. […] Everyone should take advantage of that opportunity,” Rafael said.

With their ballots now in, the matriarch and patriarch of the Serrano family can finally join their children in having their family truly counted—as citizens and voters—in the 2020 election cycle.



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