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NASCAR driver, Mexican native Daniel Suarez celebrates becoming American citizen

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NASCAR driver, Mexican native Daniel Suarez celebrates becoming American citizen
News

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NASCAR driver, Mexican native Daniel Suarez celebrates becoming American citizen

2024-06-23 04:25 Last Updated At:04:30

LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — Daniel Suarez took an oath this week and became a United States citizen, then had a surprise confession from his mother — the Monterrey, Mexico native learned he almost was American at birth.

Suarez’s parents flirted with the idea of heading to America ahead of his 1992 birth and having the future NASCAR star born in the U.S. One problem, the cost was too prohibitive so the idea was scrapped.

“In Mexico, I don’t know expensive it was, but it was cheaper,” Suarez said, laughing. “It’s really funny how my parents, they had that thought before I was born, about being born in the United States, I guess to have more opportunities. They didn’t do it.

“And now, I guess I did it my way.”

Suarez indeed did it his way, and was one of 48 citizens representing 28 countries sworn in at the field office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“The most special part of everything was, you see so many people there,” Suarez said Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “I was not expecting it. I was not expecting to see so many people.”

His fiancée, Julia Piquet, members of his Trackhouse Racing team, and even NASCAR president Steve Phelps were among the attendees that saw the 32-year-old Suarez complete his journey of becoming an American citizen (he will hold dual citizenship with Mexico). Phelps was a surprise guest and delivered the keynote speech at the naturalization ceremony.

“I didn’t think many people were going to really care about it,” Suarez said. “A lot of people really did.”

Suarez never actually considered becoming an American citizen as he grew up in Mexico. He just wanted to race.

His father packed his car and trailer with Suarez’s karting gear for the States the first time when they road tripped to Las Vegas for an event. Just 12, Suarez finished strong enough to further fuel the idea he could have some sort of racing career.

As the younger Suarez grew fascinated with stock cars, Alejandro Suarez knew he needed to raise the whopping amount of money needed to support this pricey new venture. He sold his auto restoration business and Suarez’s stock car career soon took off in Mexico. Suarez had a ride in NASCAR’s Mexico series (winning five times in 2014) and NASCAR’s low-level K&N Pro Series East, and morphed into a teen sensation at home.

After a move to the States — that included a stint in Buffalo, New York — he landed a ride in NASCAR.

He won the second-tier Xfinity Series title in 2016 — El campeon! — and became the first foreign champion in a NASCAR national series. Suarez has two career Cup wins — including the closest finish ever at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

As he rose through the NASCAR ranks, Suarez at first was focused on his career more than becoming a citizen.

“It wasn’t a dream of mine,” Suarez said. “I came to this country to race and compete. I had been working really hard to try and go to the next step and be more competitive. In a blink of an eye, I’ve been already here 12 years.”

As he got older, Suarez realized the significance of becoming a citizen. About six years ago, Suarez became determined to start the process that would make him an American. He was quizzed by his team in April over Dover race weekend ahead of his citizenship test on that Monday.

He crushed it.

“If something bad happened to myself in the street, an accident, whatever it may be, with a green card, I could get kicked out an any time,” Suarez said. “I felt like it was the right time to start this process. Slowly, I’m getting more and more responsibilities in my life. It was the right time to feel more secure; that I belong here.”

He’s set to get married next month in Brazil and perhaps, in the next few years, start a family.

First, he has to get to the altar.

“As we speak, I can’t leave the country,” Suarez said. “I don’t have my green card and I don’t have my American passport yet. Julia was working her ass off to try and process my American passport to be able to get married next month in Brazil. I thought, hey, if you want to marry me, you’ll have to help me out with this.”

AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing

Driver Daniel Suárez is introduced before a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Sonoma Raceway, Sunday, June 9, 2024, in Sonoma, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Driver Daniel Suárez is introduced before a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Sonoma Raceway, Sunday, June 9, 2024, in Sonoma, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Driver Daniel Suárez is introduced before a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Sonoma Raceway, Sunday, June 9, 2024, in Sonoma, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Driver Daniel Suárez is introduced before a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Sonoma Raceway, Sunday, June 9, 2024, in Sonoma, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

NASCAR driver Daniel Suarez, center, stands for the "oath of allegiance" during a naturalization ceremony, June 18, 2024, in Charlotte, N.C. (Noah Watts/Daylon Barr Photography, Trackhouse Racing via AP)

NASCAR driver Daniel Suarez, center, stands for the "oath of allegiance" during a naturalization ceremony, June 18, 2024, in Charlotte, N.C. (Noah Watts/Daylon Barr Photography, Trackhouse Racing via AP)

NASCAR driver Daniel Suarez waves an American flag during a naturalization ceremony, June 18, 2024, in Charlotte, N.C. (Noah Watts/Daylon Barr Photography, Trackhouse Racing via AP)

NASCAR driver Daniel Suarez waves an American flag during a naturalization ceremony, June 18, 2024, in Charlotte, N.C. (Noah Watts/Daylon Barr Photography, Trackhouse Racing via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle said Monday that her agency failed in its mission to protect former President Donald Trump during a highly contentious congressional hearing with lawmakers of both major political parties demanding she resign over security failures that allowed a gunman to scale a roof and open fire at a campaign rally.

In her first congressional hearing over the July 13 assassination attempt, Cheatle repeatedly angered lawmakers by evading questions, citing ongoing investigations. She called the attempt on Trump’s life the Secret Service’s “most significant operational failure” in decades. Cheatle acknowledged that the Secret Service was told about a suspicious person “between two and five times” before the shooting.

Yet, Cheatle gave no indication she intends to resign even as she said she takes “full responsibility” for any security lapses at the Pennsylvania rally. Cheatle vowed to “move heaven and earth” to ensure that nothing like it ever happens again.

“The Secret Service’s solemn mission is to protect our nation’s leaders. On July 13th, we failed,” Cheatle said.

Lawmakers peppered Cheatle with questions about how the gunman could get so close to the Republican presidential nominee when he was supposed to be carefully guarded and about why Trump was allowed to take the stage after local law enforcement had identified Thomas Matthew Crooks as suspicious.

Cheatle acknowledged that Crooks had been seen by local law enforcement before the shooting with a rangefinder, a small device resembling binoculars that hunters use to measure distance from a target. She said the Secret Service would have paused the rally if agents had been told there was an “actual threat," but she said there's a difference between someone identified as suspicious and someone identified as a true threat.

Asked about why there were no agents on the roof where the shooter was located or if the Secret Service used drones to monitor the area, Cheatle said she is still waiting for the investigation to play out, prompting groans and outbursts from members on the committee.

“Director Cheatle, because Donald Trump is alive, and thank God he is, you look incompetent," said Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio. “If he were killed you would look culpable.”

Cheatle, who has spent nearly three decades at the agency, remained defiant that she was the “right person” to lead the Secret Service despite the failures. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., noted that the Secret Service director who presided over the agency when there was an attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan later stepped down.

“The one thing we have to have in this country are agencies that transcend politics and have the confidence of independents, Democrats, Republicans, progressives and conservatives,” Khanna said, adding that the Secret Service was no longer one of those agencies.

Trump was wounded in the ear, one rally attendee was killed and two other attendees were injured after Crooks climbed atop the roof of a nearby building and opened fire with an AR-style rifle shortly after Trump started speaking at the July 13 rally in Butler, Pennsylvania.

The Secret Service has acknowledged it denied some requests by Trump's campaign for increased security at his events in the years before the assassination attempt. But Cheatle said that there were “no assets denied" for the rally.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has called what happened a “failure” while several lawmakers have called on Cheatle to resign or for President Joe Biden to fire her. The Secret Service has said Cheatle does not intend to step down. So far, she retains the support of Biden, a Democrat, and Mayorkas.

Before the shooting, local law enforcement had noticed Crooks pacing around the edges of the rally, peering into the lens of a rangefinder toward the rooftops behind the stage where the president later stood, officials have told The Associated Press. An image of Crooks was circulated by officers stationed outside the security perimeter.

Witnesses later saw him climbing up the side of a squat manufacturing building that was within 135 meters (157 yards) of the stage. He then set up his rifle and lay on the rooftop, a detonator in his pocket to set off crude explosive devices that were stashed in his car parked nearby.

The attack on Trump was the most serious attempt to assassinate a president or presidential candidate since Reagan was shot in 1981. It was the latest in a series of security lapses by the agency that has drawn investigations and public scrutiny over the years.

Authorities have been hunting for clues into what motivated Crooks but have not found any ideological bent that could help explain his actions. Investigators who searched his phone found photos of Trump, Biden and other senior government officials and found that he had looked up the dates for the Democratic National Conventional as well as Trump’s appearances. He also searched for information about major depressive order.

Follow the AP's coverage of the U.S. Secret Service at https://apnews.com/hub/us-secret-service.

A view of the site of the July 13, Trump campaign rally on the grounds of the Butler Farm Show, which was visited by members of the House Committee on Homeland Security, led by Chairman Mark E. Green, R-Tenn., Monday, July 22, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

A view of the site of the July 13, Trump campaign rally on the grounds of the Butler Farm Show, which was visited by members of the House Committee on Homeland Security, led by Chairman Mark E. Green, R-Tenn., Monday, July 22, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

A view of the site of the July 13, Trump campaign rally, on the grounds of the Butler Farm Show, which was visited by members of the House Committee on Homeland Security, led by Chairman Mark E. Green, R-Tenn., Monday, July 22, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

A view of the site of the July 13, Trump campaign rally, on the grounds of the Butler Farm Show, which was visited by members of the House Committee on Homeland Security, led by Chairman Mark E. Green, R-Tenn., Monday, July 22, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, left, and House Intelligence Chair Mike Turner, R-Ohio, prepare to question U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle as she testifies before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania that also saw one rallygoer killed and two others seriously wounded, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, left, and House Intelligence Chair Mike Turner, R-Ohio, prepare to question U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle as she testifies before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania that also saw one rallygoer killed and two others seriously wounded, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

From left, Rep. Jamie Comer, R-Ky., chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and House Intelligence Chair Mike Turner, R-Ohio, prepare to question U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania that also saw one rallygoer killed and two others seriously wounded, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

From left, Rep. Jamie Comer, R-Ky., chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and House Intelligence Chair Mike Turner, R-Ohio, prepare to question U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania that also saw one rallygoer killed and two others seriously wounded, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., chairman of House Oversight and Accountability Committee questions U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania, at the Capitol, Monday, July 22, 2024 in Washington. (AP Photo/John McDonnell)

Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., chairman of House Oversight and Accountability Committee questions U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania, at the Capitol, Monday, July 22, 2024 in Washington. (AP Photo/John McDonnell)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle testifies about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, at the Capitol, Monday, July 22, 2024 in Washington. (AP Photo/John McDonnell)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle testifies about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, at the Capitol, Monday, July 22, 2024 in Washington. (AP Photo/John McDonnell)

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, questions U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, at the Capitol, Monday, July 22, 2024 in Washington. (AP Photo/John McDonnell)

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, questions U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, at the Capitol, Monday, July 22, 2024 in Washington. (AP Photo/John McDonnell)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle testifies about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, at the Capitol, Monday, July 22, 2024 in Washington. (AP Photo/John McDonnell)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle testifies about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, at the Capitol, Monday, July 22, 2024 in Washington. (AP Photo/John McDonnell)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle testifies before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Rod Lamkey, Jr.)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle testifies before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Rod Lamkey, Jr.)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle testifies before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Rod Lamkey, Jr.)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle testifies before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Rod Lamkey, Jr.)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle is sworn in before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Rod Lamkey, Jr.)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle is sworn in before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Rod Lamkey, Jr.)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle testifies before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Rod Lamkey, Jr.)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle testifies before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Rod Lamkey, Jr.)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle is sworn in before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Rod Lamkey, Jr.)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle is sworn in before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Rod Lamkey, Jr.)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle is sworn in to testify before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania that also saw one rallygoer killed and two others seriously wounded, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle is sworn in to testify before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania that also saw one rallygoer killed and two others seriously wounded, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents as he is helped off the stage at a campaign rally in Butler, Pa., July 13, 2024. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle and the Secret Service are under intense scrutiny following the assassination attempt on Trump. People across the political spectrum are wondering how a gunman could get so close to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee when he was supposed to be carefully guarded. Cheatle has talked about how the Secret Service has a "zero fail mission." (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents as he is helped off the stage at a campaign rally in Butler, Pa., July 13, 2024. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle and the Secret Service are under intense scrutiny following the assassination attempt on Trump. People across the political spectrum are wondering how a gunman could get so close to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee when he was supposed to be carefully guarded. Cheatle has talked about how the Secret Service has a "zero fail mission." (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

Secret Service chief questioned over security failures before Trump assassination attempt

Secret Service chief questioned over security failures before Trump assassination attempt

FILE - Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle attends a news conference, June 4, 2024, in Chicago. Cheatle and the Secret Service are under intense scrutiny following an assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump during a rally Saturday, July 13, in Pennsylvania. He was injured and people across the political spectrum are wondering how a gunman could get so close to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee when he was supposed to be carefully guarded. Cheatle has talked about how the Secret Service has a “zero fail mission.” (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

FILE - Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle attends a news conference, June 4, 2024, in Chicago. Cheatle and the Secret Service are under intense scrutiny following an assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump during a rally Saturday, July 13, in Pennsylvania. He was injured and people across the political spectrum are wondering how a gunman could get so close to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee when he was supposed to be carefully guarded. Cheatle has talked about how the Secret Service has a “zero fail mission.” (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

Secret Service chief questioned over security failures before Trump assassination attempt

Secret Service chief questioned over security failures before Trump assassination attempt

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