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20 sworn in as U.S. citizens at Saguaro National Park
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20 sworn in as U.S. citizens at Saguaro National Park

  • New citizens take the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony at Saguaro National Park on Friday.
    Ryan Revock/TucsonSentinel.comNew citizens take the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony at Saguaro National Park on Friday.
  • Yasmin Abusida, who is originally from Palestine, shakes U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce G. Macdonald's hand after he gave her a Certificate of Citizenship at Saguaro National Park on Friday.
    Ryan Revock/TucsonSentinel.comYasmin Abusida, who is originally from Palestine, shakes U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce G. Macdonald's hand after he gave her a Certificate of Citizenship at Saguaro National Park on Friday.
  • Jama Abdullahi Ali says the Pledge of Allegiance during his naturalization ceremony on Friday at Saguaro National Park.
    Ryan Revock/TucsonSentinel.comJama Abdullahi Ali says the Pledge of Allegiance during his naturalization ceremony on Friday at Saguaro National Park.
  • Aneel Pervaiz (right) watches a video address from President Obama with his daughter Hailey, 2, during the naturalization ceremony on Friday at Saguaro National park.
    Ryan Revock/TucsonSentinel.comAneel Pervaiz (right) watches a video address from President Obama with his daughter Hailey, 2, during the naturalization ceremony on Friday at Saguaro National park.

On the 238th birthday of the United States, 20 people made a declaration of their own at Saguaro National Park on Friday, taking the Oath of Allegiance to become newly minted U.S. citizens.

Those who were sworn in as citizens by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce G. Macdonald came from 20 different countries, ranging from Azerbaijan to Iraq to Vietnam.

“July Fourth is an important day for all Americans, and from this day forward it will now have special meaning for all of you,” said acting Saguaro National Park Superintendent Scott Stonum during the naturalization ceremony, held in the park's Tucson Mountain District.

Pauline Taku, who came to the U.S. in 2002 from Cameroon, was one of the 20 new citizens at the event.

Taku originally came to the United States for a college education, she said. She currently a registered nurse and is studying to become a nurse practitioner, and is married with three children.  Taku said that what she has been able to accomplish in the United States wouldn't have been possible in Cameroon.

“It feels great [to become a U.S. citizen], it feels wonderful,” Taku said. “I feel grateful, I feel blessed and I feel like I can reach the sky right now. I feel like anything is possible right now, and I know I am going to get my dream job.”

Friday’s ceremony was one of more than 95 ceremonies across the country, in which about 9,000 new citizens were to take the Oath of Allegiance, said a press release for the event.

About 100 family and friends of the new citizens attended. The citizen candidates hailed from Azerbaijan, Benin, Bhutan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cameroon, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Mexico, Palestine, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Rwanda, Somalia, Togo, Turkey, Ukraine, Vietnam, and the United Kingdom, said park spokesman Andy Fisher.

"As this room so wonderfully demonstrates, we are a nation of immigrants," Macdonald said, telling attendees that new citizens should maintain their own identities even as they blend their traditions into American culture.

"No one should ask you to give that up," the judge said, encouraging the new citizens to exercise their rights, to vote and to sit on a jury.

“It is just a burden off your shoulder [to become a U.S. citizen],” said Aneel Pervaiz, who came to the U.S. from Pakistan 20 years ago. “I feel honored, I feel great that now that I am a U.S. citizen.”

The event was the fourth Independence Day naturalization ceremony held at the park.

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