The Fourth of July for most Americans is a time for barbeque, picnics and fireworks. Nelson Cruz’s appreciation for the holiday will be a bit different this year. This is the first time he can celebrate the holiday as a United States citizen.
The Dominican native naturalized as a U.S. citizen last October. Cruz proudly shared the news in an Instagram post in which he held a U.S. flag along with his citizenship document while stylishly dressed and sporting stars and stripes shoes.
“The Fourth of July will be different because as a citizen I can enjoy the freedoms that this country affords me. But I now have the freedom to be critical of injustices as well. I am proud to be a citizen and hope to see it become an even better country than it already is,” Cruz told La Vida Baseball.
Cruz’s words remind us that with naturalized citizenship come rights not previously guaranteed to immigrants. They also indicate how some might feel freer to exercise those rights after becoming citizens.
Cruz stands as perhaps the Minnesota Twins’ most significant free agent acquisition this past offseason. Minnesota sits comfortably atop the American League Central as baseball approaches the All-Star Break.
The slugging prowess Cruz brings to the lineup has contributed to the 2019 Twins’ powerful offense. Eight Minnesota players have already reached double figures in home runs. Cruz has hit 16 home runs despite missing more than 20 games. The distinct Latino flavor to the Twins’ power display and home run celebrations has resulted in their being hailed the “Bomba Squad.”
Equally important to the Twins’ success is Cruz’s clubhouse presence. He sets an example through his preparation, approach, and the work he does away from the stadium.
Cruz has not only brought his bat to the Twins’ potent offense. He has brought the important philanthropic work of his Boomstick23 Foundation to the Twin Cities community. On July 15 the Foundation will host an event at Target Field. The event will include a panel on the state of baseball with Cruz, fellow major leaguer Robinson Canó and other guests. The event will double as a fundraiser.
It’s an example of Cruz’s commitment to being an engaged member of his new baseball home.
Living an Immigrant’s American Dream
Cruz’s commitment to the United States was demonstrated in his naturalization as a citizen. His baseball journey is a particular version of the immigrant’s American Dream. The opportunity to migrate to this country and make a better life is one many Latinos have pursued. Professional baseball has provided the work opportunity for Cruz and countless others to pursue that dream.
The decision to naturalize and become a U.S. citizen is a powerful one for Latino immigrants. Naturalization formalizes one’s relationship with their new homeland. Going through the process is a reflection of an individual embracing a broader identity – Dominican and American in Cruz’s case.
The naturalization process takes time. General requirements include having been a permanent resident of the United States for at least five years, being a “person of good moral character,” and possessing the ability to read, write, and speak basic English, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service website.
Extensive paperwork is required. Applicants have to obtain testimonials attesting to their character and worthiness to naturalize. There is also a test where a person has to demonstrate a basic understanding of U.S. history and government.
Once all those aspects are satisfactorily completed, the individual can participate in a naturalization ceremony, as Cruz did this past October.
Becoming a U.S. citizen has clear benefits. The right to vote in elections is one benefit. It was a right Cruz planned to exercise. “Next stop: Registering to vote” he posted after sharing that he had naturalized.
As a U.S. citizen he plans to continue giving back.
“Even without being a citizen I found it important to give back wherever I was because improving our surroundings and offering opportunities benefits everybody. We can only strive to get better, and I try to do my part,” Cruz said.
Cruz, whether on the field or in the community, strives to show the Twins did more than acquire a good bat, they also acquired a good citizen.
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