What A Time To Become An American: The Story Of The Muriithi Family

October 30, 2020
NEW AMERICANS HISTORY COLORADO 191009NEW AMERICANS HISTORY COLORADO 191009Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Jane Muriithi, center, husband James at left, and son Ian Muriithi at right were among 50 new Americans at History Colorado on Wednesday Oct. 9, 2019.

Jane Muriithi and her husband James moved to the United States looking for opportunities they weren’t finding in Kenya. James wanted higher education, and Jane wanted a better paying job and more education and career options for her children. From the beginning, they knew they wanted to become citizens.

“That was one of the goals,” said James, “because that was the only way to access the opportunities and identify with the American dream, including education, better job opportunities… the right to vote.”

When the family immigrated in 2009, James worked for the Kenya Mission to the United Nations. It took 10 years for the family to receive permanent resident status and then citizenship. In that time, James completed his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, and he’s now pursuing his master’s in homeland security. Muriithi is working at Walmart, and their three children are grown and pursuing their own careers and education.

James says he gives advice to other immigrants: "Live within the four corners of the law. Pursue education. Work hard, and pay your taxes."

Jane adds, “You have to be yourself wherever you are. Respect each other.”

They also see voting as citizens’ responsibility, and they say that they are weighing candidates’ policies for dealing with the pandemic as they make their decisions.

"America being a nation which values governance and democracy… it was important to get that responsibility to vote,” said James. “ We are looking forward to casting a ballot."

Read other stories of New Americans in our special series.