On Monday, District Taco founder Osiris Hoil officially became an American citizen.
“Today America has accepted me to be part of this beautiful country,” Hoil tweeted at the time. “Today I became an American!! Thank you USA!!”
The naturalization ceremony was yet another high point of a whirlwind three and a half years for Hoil, a native of Mexico. In that time Hoil went from laid-off construction worker to food cart operator to a partner in an expanding local restaurant chain. (District Taco is planning to open a third location, on Capitol Hill, early next year.)
We asked Hoil about his path to citizenship and business success.
ARLnow: Tell us a bit about your personal history before District Taco.
I am from Yucatán, Mexico, born and raised in small town call Tekax. Due of a lack of opportunities, my family (dad and mom) thought that I could have better opportunities in the USA. So I came here in 1999. My first job was as a dishwasher at a restaurant. I then worked my way up to become a kitchen manager (that took few years).
ARLnow: How did District Taco come to be?
It was founded by Marc [Wallace] and I. He was my neighbor and I used to go to his house to have picnics with my family and his family. He loves my food and we came up with an idea when I lost my job.
I applied in 2004, right after I got married. The process was hard, because it takes a lot of paper work and patience.
ARLnow: What was your reaction upon first learning that your citizenship had gone through?
It was great. When they told me that my papers were good, it was time to study the history of U.S. and civil rights, because they do an oral test in the interview. I didn’t have any problem answering the questions, so I passed the test. One of the questions I was asked was, “Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?” I simply answered: “Thomas Jefferson.”
Seven ceremonies, from Aug. 18 to Sept. 15, will be held at Kenmore Middle School (200 S. Carlin Springs Road). One will be held on Aug. 31 will be held at George Mason University’s campus in Virginia Square. In all, about 3,100 new citizens from Virginia and the District of Columbia are expected to participate in the ceremonies, we’re told.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had been holding smaller ceremonies at its field office in Fairfax but, according to spokesman Daniel Cosgrove, the agency has since decided to hold larger, less frequent ceremonies and thus selected the venues in Arlington, which can accommodate the larger events. The ceremony tomorrow at Kenmore is expected to include 400 immigrants, along with several hundred friends and family members.
Cosgrove said the events are not the “special ceremonies” which attract TV cameras and reporters on days like the Fourth of July, but they’re still open to the public.
“It’s always good to get out into the community, show people what we do and give them a chance to see this process,” he said. “It gives people an appreciation for just what a special country this is.”
Also present at the ceremonies will be several dozen volunteers from the League of Women Voters (LWV) of Arlington, who will be conducting non-partisan, on-site voter registration drives.
The voter registration effort will “make sure that all new citizens will be able to exercise their franchise,” said local LWV Voter Service co-chair Kristin Goss, who added that the League as been trying for more than a year to bring the naturalization ceremonies to Arlington.
(Updated at 6:10 p.m.) Volunteers are needed for a variety of opportunities throughout Arlington, such as citizenship teachers and youth soccer coaches. More information about the opportunities listed below, in addition to a list of others, can be found online.
- The Arlington Soccer Association (ASA) seeks people who would like to volunteer as soccer coaches and assistant coaches for the fall season. Volunteers must enjoy working with kids ages 6-16. Soccer experience is helpful but not required. Coaches will be given training, and all necessary equipment is provided by ASA. Coaches must be available for games, typically on Saturdays, and for one or two practices per week on weeknights. Applicants can contact Justin Wilt at 703-527-0157.
- The Community Outreach Program is looking for volunteers to be citizenship class teachers. There’s no need to be a certified teacher, the instructors come from all different backgrounds and professions. Volunteers must just be able to go through an orientation class and use materials they are given to teach immigrants the information necessary to pass the U.S. citizenship exam. There’s particular need for an instructor on Tuesday evenings from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Thomas Jefferson Middle School (125 S. Old Glebe Road). There are also some positions open for weekday classes from 1:00-3:00 p.m. at the Clarendon Education Center (2801 Clarendon Blvd). Although it’s preferred that volunteers commit to at least three months, those who can’t make the full commitment are welcome to apply for substitute positions. Anyone interested in applying can contact Aaron McCready at 703-228-1397.
- The Department of Parks and Recreation needs volunteers to help children with disabilities learn to swim. Trained staff members will lead the classes and volunteers will be in the pool to offer assistance and encouragement to participants. Experience working with individuals with disabilities is a plus, but not required. Volunteers should be comfortable in the water and able to swim, and should be able to attend four sessions throughout the year (one for each season). The sessions will take place at the pool adjacent to Yorktown High School (5200 Yorktown Blvd). Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Shaeron King at 703-228-4731.