This Fourth of July marks the 239th year of the United States of America’s independence, but for many individuals the holiday will also mark their first national holiday as an American citizen.
Wednesday morning 68 candidates representing 13 different countries gathered at California State University, Stanislaus to undergo their final step towards becoming a citizen of the United States of America: the Citizenship and Naturalization Ceremony.
For some, like Shanet Rangel of Mexico, the event marked a new beginning.
“I feel proud because this can help me become successful and help my family,” said Rangel.
For others, it was a moment of closure, like for Sedna and Sevet Masihkhah. Sedna and Sevet are sisters whose parents originated from Iran but became citizens when the girls were less than 18 years old, meaning the girls needed to file different forms than the majority of their fellow candidates to officially achieve citizenship.
“We already feel like we’re citizens because we’ve been here for so long and taken part in the community through events and things like that,” explained Sevet, noting that the formalization of the ceremony put them at peace.
The newly naturalized citizens collectively represented the countries of Brazil, China, Colombia, Fiji Islands, Ghana, India, Iran, Iraq, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Ukraine, and Vietnam. Each country was called to stand and met with applause at the ceremony.
“By the end of all the call of the countries you all looked beautiful together because you stood up as individuals, but at this moment you will become citizens as a group and it’s a beautiful image because that is what America is,” said the Section Chief of the Fresno Field Office of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Lynn Feldman.
Congressman Jeff Denham (R – Turlock) was also present to congratulate the new citizens and took a moment to reflect on immigration reform, something that will be a key issue in the 2016 presidential election. Denham, who helped his own father-in-law undergo the same process to achieve citizenship, noted that the ceremony was an opportunity to celebrate not only the hard work the citizens performed but their official new distinction as a United States citizen.
“The United States of America is that true nation of immigrants. We’re the melting pot of people who have come across the globe in pursuit of the American dream,” said Denham. “This is such a wonderful commitment you’re making to our great nation and no better week to do this than the week we celebrate the independence of an immigrant nation.”