More than 30 years.
That’s how long it took for Hugo and Martha Abadia to become U.S. Citizens.
To their horror, the family petition his sister filed in 1984 was sitting in a desk and untouched for more than two years. They had no idea. And because of the length of time, they forgot that a family petition was filed.
But on a whim, and three days before their petition was going to be thrown out, Hugo and Martha decided to visit the embassy in Bogota.
It was then that their prayers were answered and in 1999, Hugo, Martha and their youngest daughter of four traveled to the U.S. in hopes of starting a new life. And they did, setting down roots in California.
Like many immigrants, they were unsure of how to start anew and anxious to find employment.
Hugo, who sold his bus business to pay for the plane tickets and other expenses to come to America, began his U.S. career working for a hotel. Martha, who was a school teacher back in Bogota, still found a way to immerse herself in education – by working for a company that packaged educational materials. She was paid $7.25 an hour.
They were happy to find work so quickly. But then, crisis struck.
September 11, 2001 occurred and the impact was immediate. The hotel where Hugo worked went from full-capacity to only eight room occupancy in one day.
“People were very scared and wanted to leave America after the attacks – they felt the hotel with 22 floors was a target,” said Hugo. “Right after, they cut the staff and I was let go – there were no people to serve.”
Hugo had an accident and was placed on disability. Soon after, the family decided to relocate to Florida.
It was during their time in Florida that Hugo and Martha decided to pursue their U.S. citizenship dream. They were referred to Hispanic Unity of Florida after visiting the Coral Springs Library, one of HUF’s community partners.
After meeting with Hispanic Unity staff and volunteers and studying , daily Hugo and Martha were ready to take their naturalization exam. However, they didn’t know how they were going to afford it.
To their amazement, HUF assisted them in applying for a waiver saving them more than $1,300.
“Every time I came to HUF, I had tears in my eyes. I was so grateful for their support,” said Martha. “Because of Magaly and Hispanic Unity, we are achieving our dream.”
Even at the ages of 70, Hugo and Martha passed their naturalization exams and graduated on June 26th.