Robert Burck, better known as the Naked Cowboy, is famous for playing his guitar in New York City’s Time Square in only a pair of cowboy boots and tighty whities. He started back in the ’90s and is still honky tonking along. His image has become a franchise featuring over 10 Naked Cowboy and Cowgirls performing in New York City and other parts of the country.
Burck and his wife Patty Cruz visited Juarez to secure her American citizenship last year in September.
“Everyone told me, ‘All you got to do is marry a girl from Mexico, and they’re legal,’ but she didn’t have a visa, so it took a bit more than that,” Burck said. “After legal fees and everything else, we flew down to Juarez. She had her interview. She had her residency. She already has her temporary license.”
The U.S. citizenship application process is mired in complicated paperwork and long wait times. It can take anywhere from less than a year to more than five. The wait time varies by case.
“[Our first attorney] got us an I-601A waiver – that’s forgiveness for getting into the country illegally – so he got us the hard part,” Burck said. “But my wife was so persistent, calling him, that he dumped us.”
To become a citizen, you must first become a permanent resident by staying in the country for five years without extended absences. Then you need to submit an application for naturalization. After filing for naturalization, you need to schedule a citizenship test and interview with the United States Immigration and Citizenship Services.
“It took literally five years. The first attorney’s interns kept switching over,” Burck said. “Basically, they had someone in charge of our case and two months later, we’d call back and ask how it was going and that person was fired, and the next person came in and didn’t know who we were. You file papers with the government and it takes like a year [to process them], and then a year later it wasn’t resolved because of all the intern flippage.”
Burck said he and his wife felt welcome in Juarez. They were led around by mass media company Televisa. He met the mayor and performed everyday.
“I loved it. The weather was warm. The place we stayed was nice. Juarez is a very nice town,” Burck said. “Mexico has a prime interest in keeping the area safe because a lot of American money comes in there. It was beautiful. Everything was nice. I heard if you went 10 minutes away, you’d get killed, but right there was nice.”
While Burck didn’t get a chance to head up to El Paso during last year’s visit, he has been here before.
“When I traveled across the country, I was on I-10, so it went through El Paso,” he said. “I met a guy in town that had a boot shop, and he sent me boots for several months or maybe a year or so.”
In a city with a large Catholic population, Burck, a tall white man with muscles and a Southern accent, was a bit of an outlier. But he won the Juarez crowd over as he played some well-sung tunes and took selfies with passers-by.
“The people were more receptive than they were in New York City,” Burck said. “I worked every single day.”
He and his wife recently visited Mexico city to spend time with her mother and explore.
“Most Mexicans have an American dream; I have a Mexican dream,” Burck proclaimed. “I want to get out of this rich country, move to Mexico and become a Mariachi singer.”