In August 2021, after more than two decades living in the United States as a Green Card holder and serving in the U.S. military, Sandra Campuzano will finally become an American citizen. “I’ve always felt like I belonged here,” she says. But Donald Trump’s anti-immigration platform changed things. “All of a sudden, it seemed more important than ever to have that piece of paper,” she says.
Campuzano was a toddler when her family immigrated to Homestead, FL from their native Mexico in the ‘80s. “My dad wanted a better life for us,” she says, explaining that the rural countryside where she was born had few opportunities. In Florida, her dad became a fieldworker and later transitioned to construction, two industries in which immigrants account for a significant portion of the workforce nationally. Her mom was a homemaker and cared for Campuzano and her 10 siblings.
Campuzano acclimated easily. During high school, she played soccer and volleyball and took apparel production classes at a local technical college. She also fell in love with Miami’s diversity. Her love of the city and the country inspired her to enlist in the Army after graduation. For her, military service was an “exciting” way to give back, while also pursuing a great career; she knew the Army could open educational and professional doors.
Ironically, though, her dedication to America interrupted her naturalization plans: She missed her first citizenship appointment because of boot camp. “I loved the training,” says Campuzano, who served as a petroleum supply specialist for two years before being medically discharged. She tried to naturalize again, but a paperwork snafu upended those plans. “It should definitely be easier or cheaper to become a citizen when you are in the service,” she says. “If you voluntarily sign up and are willing to risk your life for this country, citizenship should be automatic.”
Now that she’s finally on the cusp of becoming American in every way—including on paper– she’s most excited to celebrate with her 15-year-old U.S.-born daughter. “With the last election, there was so much turmoil,” says Campuzano, who currently works as a residential property manager. “So voting, especially now that my daughter is getting older, is important. I want her to be more involved in politics and know that she can contribute to making the changes she feels this country needs to make.”