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What A Time To Become An American: The Story Of Mike Le Roux

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14min 36sec
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Mike and Kirsten Le Roux, who emigrated from Australia, took the Oath of Citizenship with other new Americans in a ceremony at Denver’s Brown Elementary School on Oct. 10, 2019.

When Mike and Kirsten Le Roux and became citizens last fall, it was actually their second time to swap their passport. They grew up in South Africa, met and married in college, and moved to Australia in 1999, where they became citizens. When Le Roux’s athletic career took them to the United States in 2013, they knew that they wanted to change their citizenship again.

“I'm always of the opinion that, you know, when in Rome be a Roman, and if you want to have a say in the community and the future of your wellbeing, you need to embrace the culture,” said Le Roux. “You want to have a say in how things are run? You need to become a citizen.” 

Le Roux, who is 44, came to the U.S. on a visa for professional athletes. He competed in ultra-endurance events, races longer than an Iron Man or marathon, and the U.S. offered more opportunities for racing and coaching than Australia. He and his wife became permanent residents 18 months after they moved. Then, after holding green cards for five years, they applied for citizenship. 

“I couldn't have been happier with the processing time that we had. We couldn't have done it any quicker,” said Le Roux. “ I know that for others, that's been maybe slightly drawn out depending on the route that you choose.”

He said he’s also been happy with the move. A fellow racer recommended Pagosa Springs for its altitude, relatively mild weather, and open spaces -- all good for training. Le Roux said he and his wife are immersed in the community there, even though he’s slowed down on racing and taken another career path. He’s become the director of emergency operations for the Archuleta County Sheriff's Office, where he deals with natural and human-caused disasters in southwest Colorado.

Working in the sheriff’s office, which is an elected position, Le Roux says that he’s involved in politics at the local level. He’s worked on campaigns in the past, and he’s looking forward to casting his own ballot for Republican candidates, including President Donald Trump, in November.

He acknowledges that, “the political climate at the moment here is tumultuous.”  However, when he compares U.S. politics to those he grew up with in South Africa, he says,“I don't see it being that bad here. Yes, there are differences, but ultimately everybody's free. Everybody's got opportunity.”  

Whatever the outcome on Election Day, he says, “I'm not upset either way. We'll make it work. Life goes on. It's a great country, and we love it.”

Read other stories of New Americans in our special series.