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An Airman’s journey to becoming a U.S. citizen

  • Published
  • By Airman Sarah Post
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

There is not one single American dream. There are over 300 million that belong to each unique person living in the United States of America. Miguel Perez’s American dream was to become a U.S. citizen.

In 2003, four-year-old Perez and his family moved 10,600 miles across the world from the Philippines to the U.S. for a fresh start. Upon arrival, his family decided to plant their roots in San Diego. Perez has lived in San Diego ever since, and it’s where he went to school, got his first job and made many friends.

“San Diego has always been and will always be my home,” said Senior Airman Miguel Perez, 90th Force Support Squadron fitness specialist.

Perez joined the United States Air Force in 2019 for his own new start, to provide for his family and so he could become a citizen. His journey to naturalization was anything but easy. In January 2020, one year into his Air Force career, Perez submitted his first citizenship application.

“The whole process is through snail mail,” said Perez. “I put the application in the actual mailbox then had to wait about two months for immigration to receive it and send back a reply.”

After waiting two months, Perez received a denial letter explaining he would have to pay a $2,000 fee if he wanted to get his citizenship. Being in the military, this fee was supposed to get waived, so Perez sent in a second application hoping the denial was just a mistake. The second application was denied for the same reason. Frustrated, Perez went to the base legal office for assistance. With their help, Perez called immigration and explained the situation at hand. Immigration apologized and told Perez to send in his application, and they would look out for his name to make sure it was accepted. Perez sent in a third application, followed by a fourth application, which were both denied.

“I was just so frustrated and I felt so defeated,” said Perez. “I decided to wait awhile and figure it out in the future.”

In 2021, Perez was selected for a deployment to Qatar, so he got ready and sat through briefings just to be told he could not go due to the fact he was still not a citizen. Perez went to his squadron commander, Maj. Erin Holland, and his group commander, Col. Carolyn Ammons for assistance, bringing all of his denial letters. Holland and Ammons helped Perez, and when he sent in his fifth application for citizenship, he was finally accepted.

Perez stood in the immigration office in Denver to become a citizen almost two years after sending in his first application. On December 20, 2021, he took his interview, his citizenship test and he raised his right hand to become a U.S. citizen.

“I don’t know anything different than being an American. I grew up here,” said Perez. “Finally becoming a citizen just felt like such an accomplishment and it made me feel complete.”