For its 241st birthday, the U. S. received about 15,000 new citizens at naturalization ceremonies across the country, including 23 who took the oath outside the N. C. State Capitol building on Tuesday.
For its 241st birthday, the U. S. received about 15,000 new citizens at naturalization ceremonies across the country, including 23 who took the oath of allegiance outside the N. C. State Capitol building on Tuesday.
“This is part of our history, ” said John Palazzolo, who with his wife, Christine, brought their son and daughter from Pinehurst to celebrate Independence Day and witness the naturalization ceremony. “It’s where we started: the melting pot. It’s good to see people are still coming.”
These came from 19 countries: Germany, Morocco, India, Jordan, Belarus, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Guyana, Iran, Bulgaria, Eritrea, Kenya, Gambia, Pakistan, Jamaica, Burma, Senegal, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Tuesday’s ceremony was the culmination of a lengthy bureaucratic process: applicants must fill out paperwork, study principles of American government and history, pass language and civics tests and background checks. It is not unusual for the process to take two years.
The ceremony itself is quick. Including speeches by immigration officials and patriotic music by the 40-piece Raleigh Concert Band, this one was over in less than an hour. It can seem quaint, with references to founding fathers, or officious, with the forced repetition of promises to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
But for many, it’s the realization of a long-cherished dream that started in another country with a hope and a prayer.
“This is the end of journey, ” said Simon Mwangi, who raised his right hand and renounced fidelity to any foreign prince or potentate. “But it is the beginning of another, new journey.”
Mwangi, 69, came to America about 16 years ago to give his seven children opportunities he felt they would not have in their native Kenya. Several of his children already have become citizens, as has his wife, Mary.
Mwangi applied in 2015. Last year, as his application was being considered, Donald Trump was elected president after campaigning on promises to curtail immigration.
“We were very worried, ” Mary Mwangi said, that in such a political climate, the hopes of an African man might be denied.
But he stood there Tuesday – on the Fourth of July, an afternoon so hot that people used their official programs as fans – and became a full-fledged citizen.
In Kenya, Mwangi said, he worked for more than 20 years as a computer programmer and analyst, but has been unable to find work in that field in this country. A lack of equivalent training and his outsider status have held him back, he said. Recently, he has tried being an Uber driver.
“It is not a loss, ” he said of the detour he took in his career. “It has been a great gain.”
With his new status as an American citizen, Mwangi said, “I know we are going to prosper, because as you say it is in the ‘Land of the Free.’
“It is also the land of the aspiring, ” he said. “And we aspire to be better.”
For his wife, the day came with a new freedom from worry.
“We are here now, ” she said. “This can’ t be undone.”
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