New Americans

UPFRONT-citizens4Mexico native Socorro Ordonez Vilchiz has been living in America for 10 years. After a ceremony Friday, September 17, she can finally call this country her own.

Vilchiz and 31 other people hailing from across the globe came to the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site to recite the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and become U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony.

Vilchiz’s wide smile revealed what a major moment the ceremony was in her life. “I’m so excited because now I’m a citizen,” she says, moments after the ceremony at the Carl Sandburg Home’s outdoor amphitheater ended. “I wanted to stay here.”

The ceremony was held to celebrate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service has partnered with the National Park Service to hold similar events at National Parks across the U.S. The people who became citizens are from such countries as Mexico, Bulgaria, Chile, Laos, Moldova and Vietnam.

Richard Gottlieb, USCIS Charlotte field office director, administered the Oath of Allegiance to the new citizens and presented them with certificates noting their accomplishment. “Today we honor you, and today, you too can now proclaim, ‘I am an American,'” Gottlieb told the honored guests and dozens more people gathered around the amphitheater.

After the ceremony, family and friends shared hugs and kisses and snapped photographs.

To become a citizen, Vilchiz had to submit an application, undergo an interview and take a test that asks a variety of questions related to American government and the nation’s history. She says the process was a bit nerve-wracking, but she quickly adds, “I did great. I had to study hard to learn all the questions, and I went to the interview. I was so nervous that day, but I did OK.”

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