KEENE — Citizenship advocates and government leaders spoke with conviction to 24 immigrants and their families about their new freedoms, duties and opportunities as they were sworn in as citizens at a naturalization ceremony Friday held at the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument.
“Now that you are becoming citizens, you have a huge responsibility,” said Raul Moreno, chief executive officer of the Education and Leadership Foundation in Fresno. He added, “That responsibility is to support and defend the Constitution of the U.S.”
This means registering to vote and learning how to understand ballot language that may impact them as citizens and future generations. The opportunity is also placed before citizens to become leaders who advocate for others and make the world a better place, Moreno said.
“We have an opportunity to make a difference,” said Moreno. He added that there are laws "that provide you with the opportunity to be the best you can be; regardless of who you are, regardless of your religion, regardless of any handicaps, regardless of your ethnicity.”
Joel Martinez, immigration services officer from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, read a special message on behalf of President Donald J. Trump.
“My dear fellow Americans, it is with great pride that I welcome you into the American family. No matter where you come from or what faith you practice, this country is now your country. Our history is now your history and our traditions are now your traditions. You enjoy the full rights and the sacred duties that come with American citizenship,” Trump's statement said.
Immigrants from several countries raised their hands and recited the Oath of Allegiance, saluted the flag, and listened to welcoming speeches before receiving their citizenship packet.
“It makes it easier to do everything. You have more rights and I can vote in the next election,” Harmandeep Kaur said as she admired her certificate with her husband. Kaur added that now she and many members of her family — who are from India and have also obtained their citizenship — can be together.
Silvia Torres, now a U.S. citizen, came to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 3 years old. She said, “I can further my education and vote for future leaders.”