Taylor County man becomes US citizen, fulfilling a lifelong dream

Rudy Blanco was nearly deported to Cuba in 2017. Today, he’s a full-fledged U.S. citizen.
Rudy Blanco is now officially a U.S. citizen. WCTV first shared Blanco’s story in 2017, when his world was turned upside down.
Published: Nov. 12, 2021 at 10:58 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 12, 2021 at 6:34 PM EST
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WCTV) - Forty years after first stepping foot on American soil, a Taylor County man is finally an American citizen, taking the oath Friday morning outside a Jacksonville immigration office.

Rudy Blanco is now officially a U.S. citizen. WCTV first shared Blanco’s story in 2017, when his world was turned upside down.

For his family, this is proof that their lifelong motto of perseverance and determination pays off.

“I feel like I’m in the clouds to be honest with you,” Blanco said. “It’s been an amazing last couple months, actually last couple years.”

Blanco fled from Cuba to America in 1980 as a child. He’d go on to build the life he always wanted: A model U.S. citizen.

But that wasn’t official until Friday morning.

He was surrounded by family, embracing the moment, knowing the anxiety he’s lived with for decades is finally gone.

A 1990s drug charge led to routine check-ins with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In 2017, he was suddenly detained and almost deported to Cuba.

Rudy’s wife, Shelly Blanco, lived in fear after he was detained by ICE.

“It’s not a life anybody wants to live, I don’t dread this on my worst enemy, that’s how bad it is,” Rudy said.

A community outcry and strong legal response saved the day. A judge dropped Rudy’s conviction, opening the door for Friday’s star-spangled ceremony.

“This is what’s possible when people get together and fight for justice and fight for what is right,” Gisela Rodriguez, Rudy’s immigration attorney, said.

Now, Rudy can hunt, catch a flight, deep-sea fish and even drive down the road without fear.

“I’ve never felt this good of a feeling in a while,” Rudy said. “This part of our life we can put in a little box and put that chapter away.”

“I have roller coasters but there’s always a light at the end. We never give up on each other,” Shelly said.

The celebration will continue Friday afternoon for the Blanco family back home in Perry. They’re holding an early Friendsgiving, with plenty to be thankful for.

Rudy hasn’t left the country in decades, but he does have his first trip planned. He is excited to see both sides of the Niagra Falls, and he’s eager to hand over his US passport to customs each time.

RELATED: Perry man spared deportation to Cuba

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