For most of his life, Saul Anaya, 20, has called San Antonio, Texas home. His father, Jose Luis, was the first to arrive in the Lone Star State from Guanajuato, Mexico and went on to sponsor his wife and 5 children, including Saul, to join him in the U.S.
“We didn’t have any friends or family here. We knew no one. My dad worked to maintain us. He fought for us to stay together – all in one place,” said Saul.
(Saul Anaya taking the oath of allegiance to become a naturalized citizen. Photo provided by: Mercedes Lopez)
Saul enjoyed a normal childhood. He became a legal permanent resident and learned to speak English at school.
Life for the Anayas took an unexpected turn after a routine nightly bath. Saul’s mother noticed red spots on Saul’s skin and his lack of energy. Concerned, Saul’s mother took him to the emergency room and was later diagnosed with Leukemia. Saul was only 7.
His treatment included several rounds of chemotherapy and IV medications. Unable to qualify for emergency Medicaid and other forms of financial assistance because of his non-citizenship status, Saul’s medical bills began piling up, reaching $50,000.
“I knew it was a lot of money. At one point, I wanted to stop treatment and not cause any burden. I felt hopeless,” said Saul.
Mercedes Lopez, a translator at UT Health Science Center in San Antonio, has worked with immigrant families who are ineligible for certain medical benefits and supplemental assistance because of their citizenship status. “[In the health insurance marketplace] many patients base their choice on cost instead of their wellbeing,” said Mercedes.
Fortunately, Saul was eligible for U.S. citizenship. With the help of NALEO Educational Fund, Saul completed his N-400 citizenship application and had his case expedited with USCIS. Within one week Saul was fingerprinted, interviewed by a USCIS officer and sworn in as a new American on October 13, 2015 at a private ceremony surrounded by his family and UT Health Science Center staff.
The next day Saul was on his way to Dallas, Texas for a new cell training treatment to target his Leukemia which he now qualified for as a U.S. citizen.
With citizenship, Saul feels he has a new lease on life, “Citizenship means more rights, benefits and help for things like treatment and living a healthy life in the United States.”
Saul continued, “I am grateful to NALEO [Educational Fund]. Without their special help, I would not want to continue with treatment. But now with citizenship, I will continue the fight.”