"My brothers and I didn't know the language," recalled Veras, who is now a senior at Weehawken High School. "Although it was tough at first, it was a little easier for me because I was so young. I picked up English pretty well and made friends here right away."
Once the family arrived in Weehawken, parents Cristina Gonzalez and Alejandro Veras took the proper steps to become American citizens.
"It took a while, but they finally did it," Jenniffer Veras said. "The language barrier was tough for them, but they studied real hard to become citizens. They also worked non-stop to support us. My Dad came here first and was able to get us all resident cards. It took a while, but we made it."
Jenniffer was the youngest of the four children, following older brothers Khendry, Tito, and Wilson, who all eventually attended Weehawken High School as well. All three brothers were standout baseball players at the school.
When Jenniffer Veras recently turned 18, she made sure that she took all the proper steps to become naturalized, just like her mother, father, and oldest brother did before her.
"I wanted to make sure that I could become a citizen as soon as I could," Veras said. "I was prepared, because of what my Mom had to do."
Two weeks ago, Veras went to the Department of Immigration and Naturalization Services offices in Newark, prepared to take the oath of a United States citizen. Because she has been here since childhood, Veras was not asked to take the test that other immigrants must pass before they can become citizens.
"Because of all I've learned in school here in Weehawken, I would have been prepared if I took the test," Veras said.
On the day that Veras was scheduled to become a citizen, it was also the school's annual Student Law Day. Veras, the president of the Weehawken High School Student Senate, formerly known as Student Council, was slated to be the high school principal for the day, but her role had to change because she had more important matters at hand.
"It put me in a bind," Veras said. "I really wanted to be a part of the day. So instead of being a principal, I was put in as a councilwoman and sat in on the meeting later that night."
Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner announced at the mock Township Council meeting, presided over by the high school students, that Veras had indeed become a U.S. citizen earlier that day. She also registered to vote at the same time.
"Mayor Turner announced it in front of everyone," Veras said. "It was really great. It made me feel special."
Veras became naturalized at the same time the immigration issue has become intensified throughout the country.
"If you're an immigrant and you're here legally, that's one thing," Veras said. "My family came here legally. It's totally different with the illegal immigrants. I understand the issue, but now, they're putting all of the immigrants in the same category, and that's not fair."
Veras will head off to Rutgers University in the fall to major in education.
"I'd love to be an elementary school teacher someday," Veras said.