Mexican Mother Who Can’t Speak English Passes Citizenship Test

Southern California resident, Jovita Mendez, became a U.S. citizen and is living proof that dedication and ambition are the only things you need in order to make a better future for yourself. She doesn’t even speak English and can’t read or write in any language.

“I didn’t think that I would be able to accomplish this, but I did it,” Mendez said in Spanish to NBC 7 while holding back her tears of joy. Moments before, she became a naturalized American citizen in a ceremony, alongside 700 immigrants.

The ceremony took place in downtown San Diego last Thursday, and Jovita said, “I did it because my kids are here. They told me I needed to do this for myself, to have a future here,” she explained. “I’m happy.”

Mrs. Mendez came to the United States from Mexico 20 years ago. She always dreamed of being part of this country, but her illiteracy and language barrier made her dream more difficult to accomplish.

After much study and support from her family and friends, though, she finally gained the courage to take the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) naturalization test. And she passed!

Maribel Solache, a local Southern California teacher, provides tutoring for people who want to take the test. “She’s a special case – she doesn’t know how to read or write,” Solache told NBC 7.

“When she came to me, she was filled with insecurities and fear. She didn’t know how to tell me that she couldn’t read or write.” Fortunately for Mendez, she qualified for a special oral test in her native language that according to USCIS rules, a person can take if they are over 50 and have lived in the U.S for 20 years or more.

Solache had to convince Mendez that the language barrier and her illiteracy were not determinant for not being able to become a citizen. She just needed to be sure of herself. “My job was to empower her and make her believe that she could do it – that her limitations were in her head. It wasn’t the language barrier; it wasn’t that she couldn’t read or write, it was her own insecurities,” Solache said.

Mendez had to memorize all 100 civic questions, which cover everything from U.S. history to politics. The test features 10 random questions taken from those 100, and in order to pass, applicants must answer at least 6 out those 10 questions correctly.

Mendez was not able to pass on her first time but managed on the second try. “I am a U.S. citizen now,” said Mendez, crying, while proudly holding up her naturalization certificate. “I wanted something more for myself, and I did it.”

Article inspired by WTHR // ‘I Did It’: San Diego mother who can’t read or write earns US citizenship