Valley resident is proud to be an American
Persistence paid off for Roger Hivert of Gardnerville, who became a U.S. citizen Aug. 16 after trying for more than a quarter of a century.
Hivert, 68, is the assistant chief instructor at NIFTI in Minden.
NIFTI, which stands for Nevada International Flight and Training Industries, is a flight training school based at the Minden-Tahoe Airport.
Hivert, of Minden, said he was shaking during the naturalization oath ceremony, which was held at U.S. District Court in Reno, Thursday, Aug. 16.
“I just don’t believe it yet,” he said.
Hivert’s wife, Linda Mae Draper, who is president and chief instructor at NIFTI, threw a party after the ceremony for her new citizen husband. A banner outside of NIFTI’s hangar declared “Congratulations Roger, Proud to be an American!”
Nearly 40 friends attended the party, which featured red, white and blue streamers and balloons.
Hivert served in the French Air Force from 1952 to 1958. He spent nearly two of those years, 1953 to 1954, in America, training with the U.S. Air Force as an aviation cadet in the French Air Force.
After completing his service, Hivert wanted to become a U.S. citizen. He put off his dream, he said, because his ex-wife wanted to remain in France.
While in France, Hivert worked as a captain and instructor for Air France for 15 years and for Minerve, a French charter airline, for 3 years.
In 1986, Hivert moved to North Carolina and worked as a single and multi-instrument flight instructor and a soaring (glider plane) instructor. He filed for permanent residency that year, but was denied.
The first step toward becoming a U.S. citizen is to gain permanent residency. After becoming a permanent resident, an individual can apply for citizenship. In order to become a citizen, an applicant must have been married to a U.S. citizen for at least three years.
While in North Carolina, Hivert was denied a work permit by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which said he didn’t have enough in-flight hours to qualify.
“They (the INS agent) didn’t even read my file,” Hivert said, as he simulated the motion of a file being set down and denied after not having being read.
Hivert’s lawyer suggested he sue the INS in federal court, but Hivert refused.
“I’m a friend here,” he said.
Someone near the glider port Hivert worked at suggested that he declare himself an illegal worker in hopes that one day he could become a permanent resident through an amnesty program.
“It was not the honest thing to do,” he said.
In 1986, the U.S. passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which granted amnesty to people who were in the country illegally.
In 1989, Hivert returned to France, where he stayed for two years and worked for Minerve. He moved to Minden in 1991.
Like most people in the soaring community, Hivert had heard of the Carson Valley before.
“Minden is one of the top three places for soaring in the world,” Hivert said.
The Carson Valley is ideal for gliders because of the mountains, which create favorable air currents, a lack of pollution and the small population in the area,” Draper said.
Hivert applied for U.S. residency in 1986 and became a resident in 1998. He applied for U.S citizenship in 1998.
While most people would have given up the pursuit of citizenship long before he did, Hivert’s two years in the U.S. (while a member of the French Air Force) left a lasting impression on him.
“I got a lot (at that time) from the U.S.,” he said. “This is one way for me to pay back what I got.”
Hivert said another reason he pressed on was because he wanted to vote in an American election.
“I have been waiting to vote in the U.S. for 10 years,” he said.
Hivert spends his days working at NIFTI, a 7-day-a-week operation, along with Draper, who owns the business.
As assistant chief instructor, Hivert gives students a briefing on the flight simulator and helps them follow procedures to use it. He also moves and washes planes.
NIFTI, which opened in 1995, teaches students on an individual basis to fly Cessna 172, Piper Seneca III, Beech Baron 58 and other single-and multi-engine aircraft.
Draper, a former bush pilot in Alaska, flew firefighting tankers in the Western U.S. and in Alaska. She is one of the founders of Soar Minden and has been flying since 1967.
Hivert credits Draper with helping him in his pursuit of U.S. citizenship.
“I am sure I wouldn’t be a U.S. citizen if it weren’t for her,” he said.
n Laura Brunzlick can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org