Martin Ramirez's Journey to Citizenship

In 1999, Martin Ramirez found himself faced with limited economic opportunities in his hometown in Mexico.

His uncle, who had previously emigrated to United States, shared about the lucrative job opportunities in America and Ramirez decided to follow suit. Initially, Ramirez wasn’t sure how long he would stay, but after a quarter-century and two children later, he’s still here.

OPA provided a path and an opportunity for me at an extremely difficult time in my life, both personally and professionally.


Ramirez obtained a residency permit in 2002, settled in New Jersey, and started a family. Over time, he secured a green card, and even managed to get visas for his parents to visit and for himself to travel back to Mexico. He successfully ran three restaurants—two Tex-Mex and one deli—providing a comfortable life for his family. However, the pandemic drastically impacted his businesses, forcing him to seek new options.

Currently, Ramirez works two jobs: as a forklift operator for a poultry company in the morning, and in transportation for Marriott Hotels in the evening. “I want to rebuild my life and set a good example for my children,” he says.

Before the pandemic, Ramirez was focused on obtaining US citizenship. With two US-born children, he knew that citizenship would make travel easier and open up better job opportunities. “Lots of people—from airlines to employers—treat immigrants differently. I think I will be treated with more respect as a citizen,” Ramirez explains. 

"As America’s laws and political climate shift, being a citizen is more important than ever — especially with my children here.”

Another motivating factor is civic involvement. “I am eager for the chance to vote, to have my voice heard within my community,” he continues. Ramirez also views citizenship as a way to feel more secure living in the U.S. Many immigrants, even those with green cards, feel the constant threat of deportation. “As America’s laws and political climate shift, being a citizen is more important than ever — especially with my children here.”

Ramirez would also like to travel back and forth between Mexico and the United States when he retires. As green card holders cannot remain outside of the US for more than 1 year, obtaining his citizenship would facilitate that dream and allow him to travel freely. “I would like to return to Mexico for 6 months, then spend a year here and so forth,” he explains. “It would be nice to be able to be here or in my country, without risk that my residency will expire and they won’t let me back into the States.”

Two decades after receiving his residency permit, Ramirez learned about One Percent for America on Facebook in 2002. He felt a sense of relief; the pandemic had strained his finances, making it difficult to renew his green card. With a loan from OPA, he was able to renew his green card and then take out a second 1% interest loan to pay for his citizenship fees. “This has been the financial bridge I needed, first to get my green card renewed and next to become a citizen.”

“And the OPA team is great to work with, 100 out of 100,” Ramirez says. “The experience was both professional and personal. It didn’t feel like getting a loan; my loan servicing specialist felt like a friend who was helping me accomplish something,” Ramirez concludes.

One Percent for America is honored that Martin trusted OPA on his journey to achieving U.S. citizenship - congratulations, Martin!

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