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Clementina's Path to Citizenship

On May 21, 2024, in Toledo, Ohio, an incredible milestone was achieved by Clementina Gonzalez Ponce, an 82-year-old woman originally from Guadalajara, México. After a nearly 30-year wait to receive permanent residency, Clementina became a U.S. citizen.

Clementina's story began over two decades ago when she first moved to the United States. For the past eight years, she has called Toledo her home, living with her supportive sister who provides her with care and companionship. Her connection with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE) started with a routine inquiry about Social Security benefits. This is when she met ABLE Senior Attorney Jesus Salas, who not only assisted her with her initial questions, but also encouraged her to take the essential steps toward U.S. citizenship. Under his guidance, Clementina navigated the complex process of naturalization.

“When Clementina came to ABLE for legal assistance, she had received a notice from the Social Security Administration that her benefits were denied because she wasn’t a U.S. citizen,” said Salas. “But we soon found that her legal needs intersected several of our areas of focus, including translation, health care and public benefits, and immigration. ABLE advocates formed a multidisciplinary team to assist Clementina with a range of legal needs.”

Despite encountering several setbacks along the way, Clementina's determination remained steadfast. The support she received from ABLE, combined with her own perseverance, culminated in a well-earned celebration at her Oath ceremony this week, where she was naturalized with a group of 40 individuals from 24 different countries at Wildwood Preserve Metropark. During the ceremony, ABLE Language Coordinator Estela Melendez served as Clementina’s interpreter since she speaks Spanish.

“Clementina is very appreciative of what ABLE’s work did for her and she sends her regards to everyone who made this dream come true,” Melendez said.

As Clementina begins this new chapter as a U.S. citizen, her story serves as an inspiration. It demonstrates the importance of community support, legal advocacy, and the unbreakable spirit of individuals striving for a better future. Clementina’s journey is encouraging, reminding us that no matter the obstacles, the dream of citizenship is attainable with perseverance and the right support.


About the author

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE) is a non-profit regional law firm that provides high quality legal assistance in civil matters to help eligible low-income individuals and groups in western Ohio achieve self reliance, and equal justice and economic opportunity.