EFELos Angeles

Mexican-born Ignacio Villegas, 100, and his wife, 94-year-old Maria Guadalupe Correa, decided to become American citizens in order to fight with their votes for the rights of immigrants seeking a better life.

Villegas was born in the northern Mexican state of Zacatecas and after several sojourns as a temporary agricultural worker on ranches around California, he immigrated with his family once and for all in 1968.

But it wasn't until he turned 100 last year that he decided to apply for citizenship "to be able to vote freely," he told EFE.

On April 19, Villegas, together with 682 immigrants from 51 countries, took the oath of citizenship at the Fresno Convention & Entertainment Center in California.

Seven days after Villegas was naturalized, his wife went to the same center to take the oath and receive her citizenship document "in order to have the right to vote," she said.

"Like everyone we had to make an effort to get our citizenship, like they made the effort while already elderly," the couple's daughter, Evalia Navarro, told EFE.

"If this serves as an example, how beautiful," Navarro said, expressing the whole family's pride in these now-senior citizens that have nine children, 44 grandchildren, 82 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

She said that attacks against the Latino community by the presumptive 2016 Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump doesn't scare her family.

"We are citizens and we feel very secure living here," Navarro said, while acknowledging there are people who would be in a risky situation if Trump takes the Oval Office.

For that reason, she called on the solidarity of Latino voters to defend the undocumented.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla told EFE that "by becoming a citizen at age 100, Mr. Villegas reminds us of the rights and responsibilities that U.S. citizenship confers on us."

The Immigration Statistics Office of the Department of Homeland Security says there are some 8.8 million permanent residents eligible to apply for their U.S. citizenship.

Other DHS figures show that applications for naturalization are up 14.5 percent this year.

"In years of presidential elections, the number of people applying for citizenship increases. This year, we're seeing an even greater increase," Padilla said.