First Japanese Naturalized
By Sue Schuurman
APRIL 27, 1998:
44 Years Ago This Week
An ugly chapter in U.S. history touched Albuquerque in 1954 when a Mrs. Mary Yoshimoto became the first Japanese immigrant in this town to be granted U.S. citizenship. Japanese immigrants for years had not been allowed to even apply for citizenship because of racist paranoia during (and after) World War II. While one of Mrs. Yoshimoto's American-born sons served in the U.S. Army, she was imprisoned in an Arizona concentration camp for the crime of being Japanese. After such humiliating and oppressive treatment, it's simply incredible she still sought citizenship here, and apparently without bitterness.
"First Japanese to be Naturalized Here on Monday.
"Mrs. Mary Yakue Yoshimoto will make history here when she takes the oath of American citizenship Monday.
"She will be the first alien Japanese to be so sworn in here. Others from Gallup and Las Cruces have already become naturalized citizens, but Mrs. Yoshimoto will be the first from Albuquerque.
"American citizenship has long been a dream of Mrs. Yoshimoto, but like many other Japanese immigrants, she was not allowed to apply for citizenship until passage of the Walter-McCarran immigration and naturalization omnibus bill of 1952.
"Mrs. Yoshimoto, who came to the U.S. during World War I, married in this country in 1919 and has three American-born sons and five grandchildren. One of those sons served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps in Alaska from 1945 through 1947.
"Her husband, Frank S. Yoshimoto, came to this country in 1905 ... and has also applied for his citizenship. But processing of his papers has been delayed because of loss of documentary proof of entry and permanent residence. ...
"They came here in September of 1945 after almost three years in the Gila (Ariz.) Relocation Center. ...
"Mrs. Yoshimoto ... was a member of the Americanization Class at Albuquerque High School. ...
"'I will be very happy to be given the privilege of citizenship in this wonderful country,' she says.
"Born in 1901 in Japan, she came to America when she was 16 years old. Her father had preceded her and was then raising tomatoes in Layton, Utah. ... She was married in 1919 and the Yoshimotos lived in Idaho until 1934. Her three sons were born there ... .
"The family then lived in California up till the wartime evacuation. Now they all live in Albuquerque. ...
"After Mrs. Yoshimoto becomes an American, she hopes to obtain a U.S. passport and visit Japan. It would be her first trip back to her native land. ... "
--compiled by Susan Schuurman
Source: Albuquerque Journal; April 23, 1954
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