Less than a year ago, San Jose resident Lydia Rueda would have been terrified to speak in public. However, after taking the oath of citizenship last August, she acquired a new air of confidence. She now feels she has earned the right to speak out publicly. She spoke publicly for the first time this January at an action for the restoration of state services in front of San Jose City Hall.
After earning her citizenship, Lydia wanted to give back and be an example to other aspiring immigrants who are working to achieve the American Dream, so she joined SIREN’s Leadership Development program to advocate for immigrant rights.
“I remember being so afraid to speak out before and now I want to be a voice for all of our people,” said Lydia. “So they can have a chance for a better life like me.”
Lydia is from Chinandega, Nicaragua and emigrated to the United States in 1989 with her daughter after her country had been devastated by war and her husband was killed.
Once in the United States, Lydia started a new life for herself and her family. She worked two jobs, went to school to learn English, and followed the law like any other productive member of her community. In 1998, she became a Legal Permanent Resident but life was still hard as Lydia did not have the same opportunities as American citizens. She experienced many health problems but did not have access to quality healthcare due to her legal status. In 2007, Lydia suffered two brain aneurysms that required multiple operations that she could not afford and placed a large financial burden on her and her family.
Since she became a naturalized citizen last summer, life for Lydia has improved. She now receives Medi-Cal health benefits by the state and is able to receive quality health services she can afford. She spends less time dealing with medical bills and more time doing what she loves, giving back to her community by advocating for immigrant rights as a SIREN Leader.
Lydia stepped up her leadership by traveling with SIREN staff and fellow Leaders to Sacramento on January 28th to advocate for a fair and accessible process when the state enacts AB 60 to allow driver’s licenses to all Californians regardless of legal status. She spoke to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles Council about the challenges and concerns immigrant communities in Santa Clara County have and offered her thoughts for an ideal process.
“By strengthening these concerns and advocating to help others become U.S. citizens, immigrants will be more empowered in their lives to bring change and contribute to their community,” says Lydia.
Want to be a SIREN Leader? Join our Leadership Development program and make a difference in your community. Please contact Jeremy Barousse, SIREN Community Organizer at (408) 453-3003, ext. 112 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
By: Patricia Diaz