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IU’s La Casa Director Receives U.S. Citizenship

A woman who has lived in Bloomington for more than 25 years and works with Latino students on the Indiana University campus can finally call herself a citizen.

Lillian Casillas-Origel has lived in the U.S. for almost 40 years, but she has had her official citizenship papers for just a few months. She says this is her third time trying to become a citizen – in part because the first two times went so poorly.

“Both times I was treated horribly in the office of immigration,” she says. “You were yelled at. It was something where it was humiliating to me and the people that were there, and I walked out. I walked out because I felt like I don’t want to be of a country that sees me like this. I work here, I pay my taxes, I contribute to the education of others. I try to improve and make this country better.”

Casillas-Origel says she still identifies as Mexican and is not giving up any of her traditions, culture or identity. Still, she says there is a stigma in America about being an immigrant.

“They don’t realize that people are capable of being loyal to the United States, that we don’t see ourselves separate from this country,” she says.

She says that connection is something that is not easily dismissed.

“While yes I am very much Mexican it does not take away from me feeling a loyalty or feeling connected or feeling responsible all of those things for this country,” she says. “I have an investment into this country just as the country has an investment in me.

In total, 39 Hoosiers, including IU’s La Casa Director, became naturalized citizens on Dec. 1, 2011.

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