25 new U.S. citizens sworn in on July 4 in Tucson
Twenty-five people from 20 different countries were sworn in as new United States citizens on Monday, July 4. They took their oaths as they gathered with their loved ones at Saguaro National Park for a naturalization ceremony.
This was the first time in two years that an Independence Day naturalization event was able to be held at Red Hills Visitors Center of the park west of Tucson.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce G. Macdonald presided over the ceremony, and invited the new citizens to stand as he called out their home countries, which included Indonesia, Mexico, Vietnam, Burundi, Congo, Iran, Nepal, Syria, Ghana, India, Iraq and Turkey.
Then, each of the new Americans raised their right hand and repeated the Oath of Allegiance, which was administered by Deputy Clerk of U.S. District Court of Arizona Candee Gordon.
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.
"You are all American citizens," Macdonald then said with a warm smile. "Congratulations."
Speaking about citizenship, the judge said, "to me freedom and liberty come to mind – and with that liberty comes opportunity. The opportunity to pursue our dreams, the opportunity to accomplish all that we can, limited only by our ability to achieve."
Macdonald, echoing lines he's delivered in previous citizenship events, encouraged the new Americans to register to voter and take part in sitting on a jury when called to do so.
Tucson Mayor Regina Romero also called on those who recited the naturalization oath Monday to register to vote, saying that she learned the importance of casting a ballot from her immigrant parents.
"Citizenship ceremonies are humbling as they allow us an opportunity to understand each other, regardless of who we are and where we, or our ancestors, come from," said Romero, who delivered the keynote speech. "It is an occasion when we share in the emotions of these individuals as they become citizens of these United States of America. It is a gathering of people celebrating solidarity in our very own Saguaro National Park."
The new citizens took pictures with their families, beaming with smiles and holding up American flags and their certificates of naturalization. Dry eyes were rare.
One of the joyful people was Sharen Danny, a 24-year-old from Indonesia who was called to the lectern to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. She was accompanied by her parents and her boyfriend.
"I was so nervous but I thought, 'this is my moment,'" Danny said. "They told me I was saying (the pledge) when I just walked in. So, I was very anxious."
While she has a job already, Danny said not being a citizen was limiting her job opportunities. But now, she will be able to find a better job.
"I'm trying to make a little bit of a living," Danny said. "This means more opportunity... going to school."
The process for Danny to get her citizenship was long. It took a year for her to be interviewed plus over a month to finalize her citizenship. However, she didn't feel discouraged.
"Trust the process," she said. "It's so worth it."
For Mohammed Kamiab, who migrated to the United States from Iran, this weekend is full of celebrations. He turned 90 years old on Sunday, and on Monday, he was able to celebrate his citizenship with his daughter.
Five years ago he was rejected by the USCIS, but the day after his birthday, he was able to take the citizenship oath, his daughter, Nahid Farhang said.
Myriam Nyiragapasi left Congo and came to the U.S. as a refugee. She was surrounded by her children and family members today, who were all laughing and grinning from ear to ear.
"We're gonna have a cookout at home today," Nyiragapasi's daughter translated. "We're going to have African food, like fufu."
She said it was "very good to this today."
Albert Vyizigiro, a native of Burundi, said attaining his citizenship "means everything."
During the ceremony, Vyizigiro raised his right hand and smiled broadly as he took the oath, clad in a teal-blue suit.
Vyizigiro was born in Congo but fled with his family to Burundi during a civil war.
"It feels incredibly special to do this, to get my citizenship today. It's great, and thanks to the USA for the opportunity to call this place home. It's like nowhere else," he said.
Bianca Morales is TucsonSentinel.com’s Cultural Expression and Community Values reporter, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.