20 locals celebrate July 4 by becoming U.S. citizens
Twenty people celebrated Independence Day by becoming U.S. citizens at Saguaro National Park on Thursday.
The new citizens sworn in at a morning ceremony came from countries ranging from Mexico to South Korea. This was the second consecutive year that a nationalization ceremony was held at the park on July 4, and officials plan on continuing this tradition.
Delphine Knight walked into the park’s visitor center as a Belgian citizen, but walked out with her husband and two children as a newly minted U.S. citizen.
Knight met her husband while they were both on vacation in Tahiti. After meeting the two traveled around Asia for a year, she moved to the United States in 2000 and they were married in 2001, she said.
'What could possibly be more American than becoming an American on the Fourth of July?'
The process for her to become a citizen took eight months, but it took three years for her to gain U.S. residency, said Delphine’s husband, Scott Knight.
“I have always wanted to have the same nationality as all of my family,” Delphine said. “And this is very special for us because finally we are all American.”
U.S. District Court Judge Leslie A. Bowman presided over the ceremony and gave a piece of advice to the new citizens.
“Do not give up your cultures,” Bowman said. “Continue to be yourself.”
The nationalization ceremony is a “culmination” of the dreams of these new citizens, who had to learn “civics and English” to pass a test and live in the community for at least five years to become citizens, said Al Gallmann, Tucson field director for USCIS.
Across the country, more than 7,800 new citizens took the Oath of Allegiance at places such as Crater Lake National Park and the Freedom Tower in Miami, said an unsigned news release from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
In order for immigrants to become citizens, part of the process is taking an English and civics test, said the USCIS policy manual for the test. Applicants have to answer at least six out of 10 civics questions correctly and pass a speaking, reading and writing English test.
“Our nation’s birthday is such a fitting and deeply patriotic day to become a new United States citizen,” said Darla Sidles, Saguaro National Park’s superintendent. “What could possibly be more American than becoming an American on the Fourth of July? And what could be even more American that becoming an American in a national park?”