Woman gains citizenship | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Woman gains citizenship

Mary Thompson

America and opportunity – it’s an association older than the country itself. And, more than two centuries after the birth of the nation, that idea still remains.

“I cannot believe that I made it here,” said Leonida Arriola Brown, one of America’s newest citizens. “Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be in America. Everything is here in America. They eat good food and wear nice clothes.”

Brown came to the United States in 1988 from her native land, the Philippines, on a tourist visa. She never left.

“My parents are so poor I just knew that I didn’t want my children to have to go through what I went through when I was young,” Brown said. “So I always knew that I wanted to be in America.”

While in the states, Brown, who now lives in Stateline, picked up an American version of her Filipino first name – Arriola.

“Just after I got here, my friend told me I needed an easier name,” she said. “At the time, the radio was playing a Cindy Lauper song and my nickname became Cindy. I’ve had it ever since.”

She said because she had a business administration degree from a university in the Philippines, she was able to obtain work permits in the United States. Brown took to the free market and tried to find her place in society.

“I became a nurse’s aide, a traffic administrator, an export administrator and an accounts receivable clerk,” she said. “I wasn’t a citizen but I started paying taxes right away because I didn’t want to be a burden.”

During her job adventures she met her husband, David Brown, in 1993. After marriage, she obtained permanent resident status and started the process to get citizenship.

“It was a lot of paperwork and interviews,” she said. “They saw that my marriage was real and that I’ve been a good citizen – I don’t even have a traffic ticket to my name.”

Driving under the speed limit finally paid off for Brown on Sept. 10 when she was sworn in as a United States citizen.

“I cried when they said the Pledge of Allegiance,” Brown said. “It’s just such a shock.”

At the ceremony, held in the Washoe County Court House, speakers encouraged the 75 new citizens to take part in their new government.

“They told us to not to be afraid to speak out,” she said. “And to vote.”

And despite the 11 years spent in the U.S., Brown said reality hasn’t faded her perception of the American way of life.

“I see the homeless people and I think that if I can make it to the top – anyone can do it,” she said.

Not even the Clinton-Lewinski scandal tainted her dreams.

“He’s a human being and makes mistakes,” she said. “I think this will be something he can learn from.”

And with her clear pronunciation of English, complete with an American accent, Brown has made the transition into the lifestyle rather smoothly. Her two sons are American citizens. One works for Microsoft and the other is a Marine.

“And I just got a Cadillac and we have a nice home,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

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