New U.S. citizens sworn in on Cesar Chavez’s birthday at Chavez national monument in Keene

Twenty new U.S. citizens were formally sworn in on Cesar Chavez’s birthday Monday, March 31 at the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument where the legendary civil rights icon spent his last quarter century at the Tehachapi Mountain town of Keene. The national monument comprises three of the 187-acre National Chavez Center. The Fresno field office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) sponsored the moving naturalization ceremony inside the Visitor Center hosting Chavez’s carefully preserved office and adjacent to the beautifully landscaped memorial garden with his gravesite. The National Park Service administers the Chavez national monument in partnership with the Cesar Chavez Foundation.

Addressing the new citizens and their family members was Julie Chavez Rodriguez, a granddaughter of Cesar Chavez and deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Also speaking during the ceremony was Paul F. Chavez, Chavez’s middle son and president of the Chavez foundation. He explained why holding the swearing in there was so meaningful: “Thousands of selfless men and women flowed through La Paz over the decades to join my father in working for change, to labor for social justice and to learn how to run their own union and participate in the civic and political affairs of their country and community.”

The March 31 ceremony “reflects a new chapter in the life of La Paz,” Paul Chavez said. “It is still where the movement’s work is done. But it is also where the story of my father and the contributions of thousands of Latinos, immigrants and others who joined La Causa is being shared with all of America through the National Park Service. It is a story of how a former migrant farm worker with an eighth grade education gave the poorest of the poor hope and faith in themselves.”

The Fresno field office of USCIS serves immigrants residing in 10 central California counties. All who apply to naturalize usually have to drive to Fresno for their swearing-in ceremony, a trip of 100 miles each way for people from Bakersfield. The special ceremony at Keene saves new citizens hundreds of miles of driving time and expense, while also honoring the national monument and Chavez’ legacy.



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