AUSTIN (KXAN) - An Austin man has lived to see his long-held dream come true.
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel visited the home of Manual Lara, 59, Wednesday to administer the oath of citizenship. The rare, personal visit by a federal judge was promoted by Lara's health. He suffers from intestinal cancer and his condition is terminal.
"It's a great honor for me to get invited to come out here and do this," said Yeakel.
Lara is a native of Jalisco, Mexico. He legally immigrated to Houston in 1980. Ten years ago he moved to Austin, all the while working long hours as a restaurant cook. He often dreamed of applying to become a United States citizen.
"He couldn't afford to take the test," said family friend Sonia Castellanos. "He's been stalling. He finally decided it was time. He wanted to do it before he passed and leave a legacy for his children."
Because of Lara's illness federal officials moved quickly to make sure the rare at-home ceremony could take place.
Lara worked hard to complete the necessary paperwork and testing.
"The people that go through the steps and do the courses and learn what they need to learn about this country come away with probably more knowledge probably than our school kids do," said Yeakel.
On the back porch of his south Austin home, Lara raised his right hand and affirmed the oath of citizenship which concludes with the words, "You take this obligation, freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, so help you God."
At the conclusion of the oath Yeakel said, "Congratulations, my fellow American. It's so good to have you as a citizen."
Lara quickly offered thanks to God for his new status. Since he has been paying payroll taxes for 30 years, he's eligible for Social Security and Medicaid medical benefits.
Castellanos spoke for the many family and friends who watched the ceremony. "We are all joyous that he finally decided to become a citizen and his dream has come true to finally hold a certificate of U.S. citizenship, so we're all celebrating with him and his family."
"One of the most fun things I do in my job is naturalization ceremonies," Yeakel said.
The next scheduled naturalization ceremony in Austin is scheduled for April 26 at the Delco Center. Hundreds are expected to become U.S. citizens at that time.
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