Women from the Daughters of the American Revolution and children from the audience delivered flags to the soon-to-be citizens. The citizens later received their naturalization packets, sparklers and other favors to help them celebrate their citizenship and first Independence Day.
Slideshow: Naturalization Ceremony July 2014
A naturalization ceremony for 101 new citizens was held at the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site on July 3.
The International Center honored the oldest citizen to be naturalized, Rudolfo David Miranda, with a flag that was flown over the Capital Building. The youngest citizen, Samira Daouda, lead the new citizens in their first pledge of allegiance as citizens.
For the new citizens, the ceremony and taking the oath was the culmination of a long process. To become naturalized, prospective citizens have to jump through a series of hoops including having passport style photographs taken on their own dime, taking a test, getting fingerprinted and giving an interview. The process often takes place over the course of years even after they become a legal permanent resident. Hekmatulla Khan said that it took him 12-13 years to get permanent resident status, and then five more years to be naturalized.
The main event of the naturalization ceremony is, taking the Oath of Allegiance. This oath makes the process final and the naturalization candidates full, legal Americans.
Barker said every citizen who has ever been naturalized has recited the oath. She explained to the new citizens the true meaning of renouncing ties to their country of origin.
“No one asks you to leave behind all of the things that make you, you. All of the cultural richness, all of the ties and familiarities you have there in those countries, all of the ways in which your coming here will enrich us, you can bring everything that is you [with you as a citizen]…” Barker said. “When you come to this country, come as you are. That’s how we want you to come.”
University of Indianapolis President Robert Manuel and his wife, Wilmara Henriquez Manuel, spoke to the new citizens. Manuel said that she knew she had to become a citizen when she was sent to the immigrant line to reenter the U.S. from vacation and was separated from her husband and child. When she came to the U.S from Haiti at eight, she knew that America was special because of the freedoms and safety that it offered. She said her experience in America wouldn’t have been possible anywhere else and said she was humbled to speak to the new citizens. One of the best parts of being naturalized, she said, was to be able to raise her daughters as Americans.
“I have the freedom to raise my girls in a place where the possibilities are endless. They have to work hard and they have to put in their time, but really - their choices are limitless … They can think for themselves and act on those thoughts without reprecussions,” Manuel said. “Coming from a country … where you can’t really say what you feel, this is a blessing.”
Sau Hou Chang, an associate professor at Indiana University Southeast was elected to speak for the class of new citizens. She spoke of her first impressions of America and said she originally was counting down the days to finish her doctorate at Texas A&M and go home to China. But, she said she found an appreciation for American culture and the freedoms it provides and that she found a home at IU’s New Albany campus.
Khan, as a former citizen of Afghanistan, was the first to receive a flag from the children and shed his allegiance in favor of the stars and stripes. He said that he is excited to be a citizen for multiple reasons, including being able to sponsor his wife for citizenship. He said it was a long process to become a permanent resident then a citizen, but it was worth it.
Daouda, 18, said that she has wanted to become a citizen since she came here from Niger at four. She said that she loves America and has had positive influence from her friends to become a citizen. A recent high school graduate, she said another bonus of citizenship will be more opportunities for scholarships and college aid.
Manuel said that he knows it is a huge accomplishment to get to this point, but he said they also have new expectations as Americans and need to find their own paths to be successful Americans.
“Today you become Americans, but tomorrow begins the lifelong process of being Americans,” Manuel said. “Being successful in this endeavor will ensure that the traditions and values written into our constitution and our earliest legislation will remain organic and living pieces of our society.”