Business professionals in South Dakota share stories of becoming - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Business professionals in South Dakota share stories of becoming U.S. Citizens

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During his State of the Union Address, President Obama touched on immigration reform as a way to create job growth and stimulate our economy. 

Here in South Dakota there are more than 22,000 Latino immigrants who are starting businesses, seeking higher education and becoming a big part of local communities. 

Cesar Juarez is one of those immigrants.  He had an easier path to U.S. citizenship than most as he was adopted by a U.S. Citizen when he was 14. 

As a minor, he didn't have to deal with the years of paperwork and tests, but coming from Mexico, he faced quite a culture shock. 

"I came here in February and I've never seen snow before, I've never been in temperatures below zero or even close to zero so my first reaction is people can't go outside here and if they do they're crazy," said Juarez. 

Along with the change in temperature, Juarez also had to deal with a language barrier. 

"When I came here I knew how to say hi, bye, may I go to the bathroom," said Juarez. 

But Juarez overcame all of those challenges, finishing high school in Sioux City, undergraduate school in Yankton and a law degree from the University of South Dakota. 

"Now I am an associate at Siegel, Barnett & Schutz, a law firm here in Sioux Falls," said Juarez. 

President of Sioux Falls' Diversity Council Juan Bonilla says it's a story many immigrants in South Dakota share. 

"The people who are here from the Latino community are here to work with out community, to be integrated in our community, to open businesses and help the economy here," said Bonilla. 

"I live here, I love this country, I work in this country... I pay taxes, I own a home, I have children and I send them to school here," said Alejandro Ramirez. 

Ramirez has lived in America for nearly 30 years as a legal resident; he's now beginning the long process of becoming a U.S. Citizen. 

"Because I am contributing to this country and I think I need to have my voice heard by voting," said Ramirez. 

It's just one way of showing pride and appreciation for the place they now call home. 

"This is my home now, you know I am taking advantage of all of these opportunities and I would not have these opportunities if I moved back to Mexico...it just kind of hit me you know, I'm a U.S. Citizen now," said Juarez. 

Bonilla says the percentage of new businesses created by Latinos in South Dakota is higher than the national percentage growth of all new business. He says its just one way immigrants can contribute to and grow the U.S. economy.

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