This Independence Day has a special meaning for a woman in Angola. Isabel Soto came to northeast Indiana more than a decade ago hoping to live out the “American dream.”
Today, she’ll celebrate her first 4th of July as a U.S. citizen.
“I’m so happy now to be a citizen. I am truly living my American Dream.”
It is something Soto had been longing for since she was a child. At 17, Isabel came to the United States from Mexico on a Visa. She joined her father and other family members in Angola where she attended Angola High School.
Soto said her childhood in Mexico City was full of crime, fear and uncertainty. She grew up in a poor neighborhood where she and her family were in danger of gangs, crime and drug-related violence.
“Over there you pretty much live in fear,” she said. “There’s not opportunities like growing up and getting an education. I could not even walk to the market without being afraid.”
She finally had the opportunity to pursue her dream of going to school, starting a career, and raising a family in the United States.
Soto only spoke basic English which made learning challenging, she said. But she did not back down.
“At one point I wanted to express myself,” said Soto. “You know I wanted to have a life here and learn English.”
She graduated four years later.
Then Isabel met a man, fell in love and got married. That marriage produced a beautiful daughter Kailey. Tragically, her husband became abusive so she did, what for her was unthinkable – contemplate divorce.
“When I got married, I believed [marriage] was for life,” says Isabel. “So it was a very, very difficult decision for me to leave.”
After graduation she met and married her husband but the marriage became abusive and ultimately ended in divorce, which threatened to jeopardize her citizenship.
She sought help from Catholic Charities, where she learned, under the Violence Against Women Act she was able to petition for a green card. She received it in 2015.
Three years later she passed her test to become a U.S. Citizen.
“May 18th,” she said. “That’s one of the biggest days for me.”
She said it took months of studying but it all paid off in the end.
“You know I would even tell my daughter, ‘please ask me [questions] because we have to learn so much,” said Soto. “I was very excited but at the same time I was getting prepared for that day. I didn’t want to make a mistake I didn’t want to miss any questions. I was going to school and I had a full-time job but I guess I did it. I passed it.”
She enrolled at Ivy Tech with her sights set on a two-year degree in Business Operations Applications and Technology.
Isabel is now on track to complete that degree in August. In the meantime, she is holding down two jobs and taking care of her daughter Kailey.