On June 28, in an El Paso court house, Texas Transportation Institute’s (TTI) Research Engineer Rafael Aldrete held up his right hand and repeated about 100 words. The United States Oath of Allegiance lasted only about a minute — but it was years in the making.
“It’s been such a long and tedious process,” Aldrete says about the citizenship process. “You must really want it to go through it. But, I feel like I’ve really accomplished something.”
Aldrete joins his two children, who were born in the United States, in becoming a U.S. citizen. This particular 4th of July is especially significant to Aldrete since one of his children, Ela, was born in Washington, D.C., on a 4th of July.
At 39, Dr. Aldrete is the manager of TTI’s office in El Paso and director of its Center for International Intelligent Transportation Research (CIITR). His successful engineering career started back in his Mexican hometown, where his parents still live. He received a B.S. degree at the Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosi, Mexico.
Aldrete first came to the U.S. to attend graduate school at The University of Texas on a student visa. That’s where he received master’s and doctoral degrees in civil engineering. After graduation and while working in the Washington, D.C., area, he considered becoming a U.S. citizen.
During one of his many trips abroad, Aldrete met his wife, Sengul, in Turkey. She and two of Aldrete’s brothers live in the United States. They have already become, or soon will be, U.S. citizens as well.
As for Aldrete, he will be away from home working on a research project in Brazil during his first 4th of July as an American.
“During the last five years, I have traveled all over the world on work-related assignments,” Aldrete says. “The United States is the only place I’ve been where all different cultures successfully co-exist and the government is tolerant of such a diverse citizenship. I am very proud to call the United States home.”