U.S. migrant worker struggled to gain citizenship, started organization to help others

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Emma Torres came to the U.S. as an undocumented teenaged migrant worker and struggled to navigate the immigration system in order to gain her citizenship. Now, she’s sharing her story about her journey and explains why she started an organization to help other migrant workers along the way.

Torres is a Mexican immigrant and came to the United States when she was 11 years old. She came with her family, who were migrant farm workers. Her father was a “Bracero”, or a guest worker who would come to the country to work and then return to Mexico afterward.

Torres became a U.S. citizen in the late 90s. She said that one of the most tenuous parts of the process was learning the application process and handling all of the costs associated with it.

“There is a cost, there is definitely a cost for your citizenship. And sometimes people don’t have the funding to pay for it,” Torres said. She added that learning about the country’s history and preparing oneself for the process was crucial.

“Before I started my process, I didn’t know that there were different organizations credited by USCIS to assist individuals to become citizens,” she said. She said that if she knew about some of these aid groups, the process would have been a lot easier. Her experience with the application process inspired her to do the work that she does now.

Torres said that she experienced a tragedy when she was young as well, becoming a widow at just 25.  The tragedy put her at a “crossroads” of sorts in her life. After that, she decided it was time to begin working to better help her children and herself.

Emma Torres came to the U.S. as an undocumented teenaged migrant worker and struggled to navigate the immigration system in order to gain her citizenship.

Emma Torres, Exec. Director & Co-Founder, Campesinos Sin Fronteras

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