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Archived from our former blog, The Beacon.

Los Angeles Woman Becomes U.S. Citizen 62 Years After Arriving in America

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Los Angeles immigration services officers often hear incredible stories from people getting ready to take the final step in their immigration journeys. San Fernando Supervisory Immigration Services Officer Nellie Caedo and Immigration Services Officer Emmanuel V. Elepano heard one such story from Helga Basses, an 83-year-old German woman.

When Helga was 20 years old, her grandmother bought her a one-way ticket to the United States to leave post-war Germany. On her way, stuck in the third-class compartment of a boat with strangers and not knowing what to expect, she celebrated her 21st birthday. Helga arrived through Ellis Island in one of the last groups to go through the facility before it closed in 1954.

San Fernando Valley field office director presenting Helga Basse her citizenship certificate.

San Fernando Valley field office director presenting Helga Basse her citizenship certificate.

Five kids, a move from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles, and 62 years later, Helga joined more than 4,300 people at the Los Angeles Convention Center on July 11 to become a U.S. citizen during a naturalization ceremony. When asked what it was like to find out that she had passed the citizenship test, Helga said, “To be honest, I was extremely excited, but a little disappointing. I studied 100 civics questions and they only asked me seven. I want to show the officer that I knew all of the answers!”

Los Angeles news media interview Helga about her journey and special day.

Los Angeles news media interview Helga about her journey and special day.

San Fernando Field Officer Director Roland Lyons presented Helga with her citizenship certificate. Four generations of Helga’s family watched proudly. “If you are willing to sacrifice and work hard, anything is possible in this country,” Helga said.