Fernando Valenzuela became a household name in Los Angeles many years before he became a United States citizen. When he did take a test and an oath and join about 8,000 others at a naturalization ceremony at the Los Angeles Convention Center last summer, Valenzuela did something he never could at Dodger Stadium: He blended in.
Now, Valenzuela is in the spotlight again. The retired pitcher and current Dodgers broadcaster joined Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti and León Rodríguez, Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, on a conference call Thursday to stress the importance of citizenship. Valenzuela is officially a “Presidential Ambassador for Citizenship and Naturalization,” the public face of a nationwide movement to encourage legal permanent residents, especially from Mexico, to apply for U.S. citizenship.
“I get to vote in my first presidential election,” Valenzuela said. “If anybody has a chance, an opportunity to be a citizen, why not? They can do it. It’s very important.”
The message is simple, but it may be powerful. Few names and faces are more recognizable in the local Mexican-American community than Valenzuela’s. On Friday, leaders from the civic and private sectors will convene in Los Angeles to further the goal of encouraging citizenship. Valenzuela’s involvement from this point forward isn’t clear, but for a day his message was.