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2017-11-23

Welcome home, Clare

By Bev Barr BCC Editor

On Friday, Nov. 17, long-time Medina and Hill Country resident Clare Barnett Alvarado took the oath of allegiance to the United States of America in a swearing-in ceremony for naturalized citizens at the US Citizenship and Immigration Service in San Antonio. Barnett-Alvarado and 49 other immigrants from 22 countries around the globe raised their right hands and repeated the oath, recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang The National Anthem. The swearing in service also included a filmed welcome from President Trump on three flat-screen television monitors and a soul-stirring montage of quintessentially American images as backdrop to John F. Kennedy’s enduring inaugural address, the one that poses the challenge, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
Clare Barnett-Alvarado has been resident of the Hill Country community since the early 90s, when she first came to America from the UK with a Green Card to work as ranch manager for her father on his property near Fredericksburg. She was drawn to the cowboy world of Bandera County and tried her hand at photography, capturing rodeo images for “The Review,” which started her on a career as a “stringer” photographer for local papers. One of these papers was the Bandera County Courier, published by Gail Joiner and Carl Holt, who were among Barnett-Alvarado’s first friends in the Hill Country. Joiner brought flowers and treated the long-time employee and friends to a celebratory lunch following the ceremony.
"I've known Clare over 20 years. Living in the US has always been her dream. She's worked very hard to earn her citizenship. I'm proud to have her as a fellow American", Joiner said.
Several of Barnett-Alvarado’s other long time friends and neighbors made the trip from Bandera County to San Antonio to share in this milestone event with Clare and her husband, Telsforo “Negro” Alvarado.
“It’s exciting to be here and I want to support Clare,” said Shirley Hatfield, who attended the ceremony with her husband, Tom. “She worked hard and I’m proud of her for going through the steps — I’m proud of everybody who went through the process. Clare is a wonderful addition to our world!”
Others echoed the sentiment. Jack Smith first met Clare and Negro back in 2006, when Jack and his wife moved to Medina and they hired them to do landscape maintenance and housework.
“They still do work for me, but I think of them now as friends,” Smith said, emphasizing the word “friends.”
Friends indeed. Smith’s late wife, Sue Ellen, Shirley Hatfield and Gail Joiner planned a most memorable “cowboy wedding” for Clare and Negro, who tied the knot in 2013 after a happy romance that began in September 2008. Clare had called a construction company to dig deep holes in impossibly hard soil in order to sink fence posts. “Negro” arrived — and the two experienced the spontaneous combustion of “good chemistry.”
Soon thereafter, Negro proposed that — rather than endure the torment of a hostile resident’s barking and sometimes loose dogs — Clare could walk her dogs in a pasture that extended from the back of his house all the way down to the Medina River. Clare thought it seemed to be a good idea. The two friends decided it would be nice to be able to walk their dogs down to the river together, but there was a problem: The path was narrow, barely wide enough to walk in single file. Their solution became the couple’s future.
“We both had mowers. I had a 46-inch and he had a 42-inch — Craftsman,” Clare said. “So we mowed the pasture together. And the rest, as they say, is history.”
It took several months for the couple to mow the entire pasture, but they did it. They worked together and achieved this straightforward and useful accomplishment, which improved their daily living, and — it marked the beginning of pursuing and achieving several American dreams, one of which is to own one’s own business. (Telesforo began a landscaping maintenance business and it has grown to include upwards of a dozen mowers and other landscaping equipment.)
They married in April of 2013, which made the path to citizenship for Clare possible. In December 2013, she contacted an immigration attorney in San Antonio, Nancy Taylor Shivers.
“Clare mentioned that she and her husband, Telesforo Alvarado, needed to see me about immigration,” Shivers said. “I assumed incorrectly that she wanted to petition for him. She set me straight right away: He was native and it was she (Clare) that would like the residency. … I gave them a list of documents I would need. Within a week, the documents were in my office. When we asked Clare for information, she responded quickly — which does not often occur. … I told Clare that she could apply to become a US citizen in March of 2017 — 2 years and 9 months after she became a conditional resident.”
Thus began a legal process that took months to conclude. According to Clare, hiring Shivers was worth every penny of the cost incurred, which totaled about $5,000 in legal fees. “She was excellent!” Clare said.
In February 2017, Clare began to prepare for citizenship by studying 100 civic-related questions (which are available online) for about 15 minutes a day. USCIS officers ask no more than 10 of the 100 questions, but Clare was determined to be fully prepared and score 100 percent. Debbie Martin, owner of The Old Timer in Medina, started tutoring Clare once or twice a week, and they spent time not only mastering every single question forwards, backwards and randomly — but discussing what it means and feels like to be a US citizen. During the last few weeks, Martin made the study sessions more challenging by providing “an answer” to which Clare would provide the question, similar to the Jeopardy game show.
“Clare was a willing and happy student and quite proud,” Martin said. “We talked about history and the responsibility of voting. … It was a humbling and enlightening experience for me personally.”
Martin and The Old Timer employees awarded Clare with a flag for her home and a decorative cap in honor of her “acing” the test on Oct. 26.
“I have represented thousands of individuals over the past 30-plus years, and I remember many of them,” Shivers said. “Clare is one of the very special people I have represented. … She and Negro are unique people who give new meaning to the hackneyed phrase — ‘people of character.’ The Medina and Bandera community is blessed to have them.”

Yes we are.