For This Dominican, a Reward of Military Service: U.S. Citizenship
Ramon Melocarela has shown a spirit of perseverance, loyalty and optimism all along his journey from his native Dominican Republic to U.S. citizenship to recognition as a 2013 USCIS Outstanding American by Choice and, now, to promotion to a USCIS supervisory immigration services officer.
Ramon became a permanent resident in 1993 after being petitioned by his father. After completing his studies in marketing, he joined the U.S. Army Reserve and applied for citizenship in 2004. "The country was facing difficult times after 9/11. I wanted to do my part, and I thought the best way to do so was by serving in the military."
Members of the U.S. armed forces may be eligible for citizenship by qualifying for naturalization through military service under Section 328 or 329 of the INA. (For more information, see the Citizenship for Military Members page.) However, his application was not approved at that time.
In 2006 Ramon was deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom. That November, he submitted his application once more. It was approved and in February 2007 he took the Oath of Allegiance next to his fellow service men and women during a special naturalization ceremony in Iraq.
Ramon describes his naturalization ceremony as moment that was "almost surreal" because he was in Iraq with his "brothers and sisters in arms to the right and left." It was a "moment that very few people outside the military would understand, but perhaps others service members in uniforms such as police officers can understand, because there is a very strong bond that develops among colleagues," he says. Ramon also recalls how impressed he was with the dedication and customer service he experienced from the USCIS staff in Iraq during the naturalization process.
Ramon Melocarela, shown with an Army officer, receives his naturalization certificate during a special naturalization ceremony in Iraq.
After becoming a citizen and returning from Iraq, he moved to California where he started a job search. He worked with various government agencies for a short time before USCIS offered him a job in 2008. He started working as an immigration services officer, but was then deployed for a second tour of duty in Iraq.
In early 2015 he was promoted to a supervisor at the USCIS New York Field Office.
"I am part of something greater than myself, in this case USCIS, which brings me great pride," Ramon says. "Every file, every application represents a person and we treat each person with respect." He has witnessed elderly applicants cry from happiness after passing their naturalization exam, and seen the pride and satisfaction in people’s faces.
His message to anyone who is thinking of applying for U.S. citizenship is simple: "You will not be discriminated against for your race, country of origin or any other reason; you will be treated with respect and will be treated justly. I applied for citizenship once and was not approved; this didn’t mean I was discriminated against. This did not stop me from reapplying and finally becoming a citizen."
Learn more about becoming a U.S. citizen in the Citizenship Resource Center.