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Life Changes: Leonor Jurado, born in Ecuador, became a U.S citizen

Tuesday, December 30, 2008 | 5:48 p.m. CST; updated 10:47 a.m. CST, Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Leonor Jurado came to America in 1996 when she was 16 through an exchange program. “My father wanted me and my sister to learn different culture and different language,” she said. Her sister was sent to France. “I was ready to see something new, but I didn’t think of ending up here,” Jurado said.

Leonor Jurado, a native of Ecuador, became a U.S citizen on June 9. The process took nearly 10 years.

Jurado came to America in 1996 when she was 16 through an international exchange program. She attended high school first in Union, Mo., then Washington, Mo.

“My father wanted me and my sister to learn different culture and different language,” she said. Her sister was sent to France.

“I was ready to see something new, but I didn’t think of ending up here,” Jurado said.

“In Ecuador, when people apply for a job, they care more about connections,” she said.

“Who do you know, where do you come from, which school do you attend are really important. Someone whose skin is lighter can get even more opportunities.”

Being a woman in South America is more dangerous than the United States, where Jurado said she feels safer. Domestic violence is a problem in Ecuador, she said.

“Woman and children are abused, but they don’t realize what is wrong until they leave their country.”

Jurado met her future husband, Eric, in a Spanish class at East Central Community College in 1996. She was tutoring people who needed extra help.

“Eric was my student, but we were good friends during the time.”

After she returned to Ecuador, Eric visited her. They began dating in 1997 and married two years later when she was 19.

They wanted to start a life together in Ecuador but decided to come back to Missouri because the economy was poor in Ecuador. Currently, Jurado is pursuing a master's degree with an emphasis in photography at MU.

When she married in 1999, Jurado applied for a green card. In 2000, she received conditional permanent residency. Then, after waiting two more years and proving that her marriage was official, she finally got a green card.

In 2007, Jurado used the N-400 form to file for citizenship. To submit the paperwork each time, she had to drive to Kansas City from her home in Boonville.

She became a citizen last summer in naturalization ceremonies that included 1,000 immigrants from more than 100 countries. Now, she said, she can acquire an American passport and travel anywhere without worrying about securing a visa for every single country.


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