Citizenship awarded to immigrants from 20 different countries at local elementary school ceremony
BY FREDA MIKLIN
On May 9, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) held a ceremony at Belleview Elementary School in the Cherry Creek School District during which 26 people took the oath to become American citizens. The 26 individuals who became naturalized U.S. citizens originated from 20 countries: Bulgaria, Burma, Canada, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, France, Honduras, Iraq, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Philippines, Somalia, South Africa, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
USCIS holds citizenship ceremonies at venues like schools, “to highlight the importance of U.S. citizenship and increase public awareness of the U.S. citizenship process.” All the fourth and fifth graders at Belleview attended the complete ceremony and even sang songs for the new Americans, welcoming them to our country. The school Boy Scout Troop presented the colors. After the ceremony, the fifth grade led everyone in attendance in the Pledge of Allegiance.
In fiscal year 2021, USCIS naturalized approximately 808,000 people. For anyone wishing to become a U.S. citizen, USCIS has a YouTube video that explains how to file an application online to begin the process. The link for it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=sl5HbkUAVh4. Most of the new citizens we spoke to at the ceremony said it took less than a year to complete the process, however it was longer for some.
We spoke to new citizen Haitham from Iraq. He asked us not to use his last name or his picture. Haitham worked for the U.S. Army as a translator in Iraq for eight years, during which he was the victim of three separate car bombings. It took him five years to get approved to come to this country from his native Baghdad. Haitham recently completed a two-month internship at the state capitol, where he used his technical video production skills to help the general assembly. Although grateful to be a U.S. citizen and happily waving his small American flag, Haitham told The Villager that there are still many people like him who helped the United States during its war with Iraq that have not been able to come to this country. He wanted us to know that he feels very strongly that, “It’s just not fair.”
In his address to the new American citizens, Arapahoe County Assessor P.K. Kaiser told them that when he became a U.S. citizen in 2004, “It was the happiest moment in my life.” He decided he wanted to contribute to this country so, he said, he got an MBA in finance and a masters in accounting. When Kaiser told the new citizens, “America believes in immigrants,” he choked up with emotion. He went on to tell them that, “Citizenship comes with liberties and responsibilities. Enjoy your liberties and fulfill your responsibilities. Be sure to register and vote.”
As the ceremony ended, Eva Rupp, USCIS Denver Field Office Director, shared a similar message with the new citizens, telling them, “We don’t care how you vote, but you are now citizens in a representative democracy and every vote counts. Make sure your voice is heard.”