Westborough firefighter fired up for American citizenship

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Westborough firefighter fired up for American citizenship
Emanuel Desouza shows his U.S. citizen certificate after the swearing-in ceremony at Mechanics Hall on Nov. 29. (Photo/Courtesy of Emanuel Desouza)

WESTBOROUGH – One of the newest members of the Westborough Fire Department is also one of America’s newest citizens.

Emanuel Desouza, who joined the department as a full-time firefighter/EMT in September, took his citizenship oath on Nov. 29 at Mechanics Hall in Worcester.

“It was amazing,” he said of that day. “After all these struggles, it finally happened.”

Dreams of being a firefighter

Desouza, who lives in Charlton with his family, was born in Brazil in 1991. He moved to the United States with his parents when he was three.

“We came from a pretty poor region,” he said. “They were trying to gain a better life than in Brazil.”

The family first settled in Somerville before moving to Medford when Desouza was a teenager. His father worked as a handyman at condo projects; his mother worked as a babysitter.

“My parents did not speak English, and I didn’t speak English,” said Desouza.

He learned the language during elementary school after someone recommended that he watch cartoons on TV.

Desouza’s struggles began when he was attending Medford High School and applying for jobs.

“They kept asking for my Social Security number — I asked ‘what’s that?’” he said.

Not having a Social Security number prevented him from getting a job and joining the military, and he was unable to obtain financial aid for college.

Desouza began working as a mechanic in Revere, at a business owned by a family friend. He was there for seven years; along the way, he got a Social Security number and work permit under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Act.

Desouza worked at Nissan and Mercedes dealerships. But even before he became a mechanic, Desouza wanted to be a firefighter.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said.

While still in Brazil, his mother, who was pregnant with Desouza, was rescued from a vehicle fire by EMTs.

Years later, with a wife, three children and a green card, Desouza decided to pursue his dream of becoming a firefighter.

Desouza said he had no idea about the process to become a firefighter, and he credited the fire chief in Northbridge for pointing him in the right direction.

Desouza joined the Douglas Fire Department as a call/volunteer firefighter.

“I was nervous. I knew nobody in Douglas,” he said. “In Douglas, I responded to everything; if [the alarm] went off, I was going. I wanted to gain some experience.”

Desouza graduated from the call/volunteer firefighter academy in February 2021, and he decided to undergo EMT training.

To do that, he had to quit his job as a mechanic, and he worked for a private ambulance company.

“I took a big pay cut, but I knew it would eventually pay off,” he said.

While still with the Douglas department, Desouza kept applying for full-time positions. He found one with the Oxford Fire Department.

“I was a call member, but I got to full time,” he said.

Westborough firefighter fired up for American citizenship
Born in Brazil, Emanuel Desouza made his dreams come true – he’s a firefighter/EMT and also a U.S. citizen. (Photo/Maureen Sullivan)

Desouza then began looking at Westborough’s fire department.

“Their fire department is admired and looked up to,” he said. “Their reputation is unreal. They always strive for better.”

After applying three times over two years, Desouza was hired as a firefighter/EMT in September.

“Manny’s one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met,” said Chief Patrick Purcell. “When you have that much passion, it will pay forward.

“He has very good core values and integrity,” he added. “He’s a genuinely good person.”

The road to citizenship for Emanuel Desouza

Desouza’s immediate future includes finishing paramedic school. He would like to eventually become a captain in the fire department.

While he was training to become a firefighter, Desouza was also working his way up the ladder to citizenship.

Getting a green card/work permit was “an extensive process,” said Desouza. After interviews with Homeland Security, taking a test and more interviews, Desouza took part in the swearing-in ceremony and became an American citizen.

“I look at the timeline [on my resume]; it’s such a small time frame,” said Desouza. “It was a lot of hard work. All I wanted was a chance.”

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