By Sean Barron
The way Hilario Pasillas met his wife may have been coincidental, but his becoming a U.S. citizen was anything but.
“It feels great. I don’t have to worry about anything,” he said with a sense of relief. “It was a long journey.”
The Howland man was one of six people who were honored for having become naturalized U.S. citizens during a ceremony Friday in the Nathaniel R. Jones Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, 10 E. Commerce St.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kay Woods presided over the ceremony, and the six received certificates declaring them full U.S. citizens. All live in the Mahoning Valley.
The others were Mahmoud A. Snedawy and Ahmad A. Ghashmari, both of Jordan; Madeleine Ngondu Kazadi of Congo-Kinshasa; Nicole Wade of Germany; and Yasser Z. Alsadi of Yemen.
Pasillas, who works for Cyclone Auto Seat Cover Co. Inc. in Youngstown and is from Tijuana, Mexico, recalled having met his wife, Tracy, in mid-1998 in Florida. The two happened to live in the same apartment complex and were married Dec. 15, 1998, he recalled.
“Now he doesn’t have to worry about anything expiring, and he can get his passport,” said Tracy, adding that the couple plans to travel to Niagara Falls in Canada.
Also at the gathering were the couple’s three children, Miguel, 9; Jasmine, 11; and Jairo, 18, a Howland High School student.
“I feel happy that my dad did this,” Jairo added.
On average, it takes three to four months between filling out applications and becoming naturalized citizens, noted John Certo, an immigration officer with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency.
Most people who wish to become U.S. citizens live in the country five years or more. Requirements include showing good, moral character, abiding by the law, believing in the nation’s democratic form of government and supporting the Constitution, Certo explained.
“Our agency works with people of all backgrounds,” he continued. “We love seeing the joy they feel of being new citizens.”
Also honoring the new Americans was Sarah Lowry, Northeast Ohio regional representative for the office of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland.
In addition, two representatives with the League of Women Voters’ Youngstown office were on hand to register them to vote.