Just as America has entered a new chapter, so too has Elvia Perez Arizmendi, a Sandy woman who recently swore an oath to this country—much like President Donald Trump did today.
Arizmendi, a Mexico native, settled among more than 100 people last November at the Utah State Capitol who took the naturalization oath of allegiance. She watched the inauguration ceremony on her living room couch Friday next to her 4-year-old daughter who was lost in imagination with a parade of stuffed animals.
Trump swept into the White House with the help of a passionately loyal populist base. But he’s also entering office with dismal favorability ratings for a newly inaugurated president. The two political spheres have pushed competing narratives.
Arizmendi isn’t overtly political, though. She’s lived in the United States for about 20 years, but this was the first inaugural address she’s watched.
“For me, it’s a good experience. Now I feel like a citizen. I’m excited to watch this for the first time,” Arizmendi said after the ceremony. “People are kind of afraid about him, but I think he is going to be a good president.”
Trump has his work cut out for him, however, if he hopes to win over the support of many minorities. Immigrants have viewed Trump with a dose of skepticism. He has promised to divide the U.S.-Mexico border by erecting a wall. He’s called at times for mass deportation. And early in the campaign, he made inflammatory accusations about undocumented immigrants, labeling them as rapists and murderers.
Adding fuel to the fear, a faction of Trump backers are openly racist and xenophobic.
But Arizmendi noticed Trump trying to champion all Americans. She watched the ceremony quietly.
The tenor of Trump’s speech was immediately picked apart, scrutinized and interpreted. Many national commentators focused on Trump contrasting the America he intended to rebuild to a bleak portrait of the country he inherited.
“Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation, an education system, flush with case, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge, and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential,” he read. “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”
Later, however, Trump said loyalty to the country leaves “no room for prejudice.”
Arizmendi is optimistic, saying she believes Trump’s presidency will turn out positive. “I hope,” she clarifies.
She sought citizenship in large part because she thought it would lead to better opportunities in her life, which could then be passed down to the children. “When I became a citizen, my dreams came true,” she says.