25 new Americans take citizenship oath on July 4 in Tucson

At the welcome center for Saguaro National Park West on Wednesday morning, more than a dozen people from nearly as many countries faced the scenery of the Sonoran Desert and achieved a long-sought dream: becoming U.S. citizens.

Hailing from Algeria, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Congo, Egypt, India, Jamaica, South Korea, Lebanon, Liberia, Mexico, Nepal, Nicaragua, Philippines, Russia, Spain, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and Vietnam, the 25 new Americans took their oaths of citizenship at the visitors center in the Tucson Mountain District on Thursday morning.

“As this room so wonderfully demonstrates, we are a nation of immigrants,” said U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce G. Macdonald, who presided over the ceremony — the 12th such event held at the national park in partnership with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

During the last decade, 7.7 million became naturalized citizens, according to the USCIS website. In Arizona, more than 180,000 lawful residents are eligible for citizenship.

To formally swear in the new citizens, Supervisory Immigration Services Officer Duane Morrison administered the Oath of Allegiance while a chorus of voices joined:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely
renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince,
potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore
been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the
Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all
enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and
allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United
States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant
service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the
law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian
direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation
freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me

Gisselle Paris Aubry, a local mariachi singer, performed the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Saguaro National Park Superintendent Scott Stonum emphasized that the United States’s founding mission is to become a place of freedom for everyone: “The Declaration of Independence’s words have long been a beacon of hope and opportunity for millions around the world. ‘Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.’ It is important to never take these words and rights for granted.”

Yet, the fact that the United States has not always lived up to these principles was addressed. Jesse Navarro, Tohono O’odham Legislative Council’s Baboquivari representative, reminded people that Saguaro National Park is part of the Tohono O’odham Nation’s ancestral lands, and welcomed the citizens to it.

“This is home. This is your home now. And so we welcome you,” he said. “As citizens, you see the landscape, the landscape that we see here protects us as well.”

Then he led a prayer to bless the ceremony and sang a traditional song to remind people.

“There’s times in our lives where we get lonely. There’s times in our lives where we may not understand where we are in life. But today we are here. The sun is beating over us. It’s blessing us with this race to be alive, to be thankful and to celebrate,” said Navarro.

Keynote speaker Montserrat F. Caballero, a Pima Community College student, who is from Chile, also acknowledged that she had mixed feelings when she became a U.S. citizen. But, her opinion changed as she toured the national parks and began to understand the nation’s complicated history.

“The first time I truly fell in love with the United States was when I took a cross-country trip in my twenties. We visited national parks in every state,” she said. “We also visited historical sites that reflect the complicated and often difficult history of this place.”

“To truly love a land, you have to see all the good, the bad, the complicated, the negative, as well as the grandeur and the beauty,” she said. “You have officially chosen to make it your permanent home with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities that come with being a U.S. citizen.”

Caballero now helps immigrants learn English and study the history of the United States for the citizenship application process.

At the end, Macdonald stressed that, as citizens, to uphold the democracy and liberty that the United States prides itself on, they should vote and serve in juries when called.

Indeed, Vasileios Paschalidis, from Greece, decided to take the plunge and become a citizen after eight years as a green card holder.

“I’m treated as a citizen in many ways but I don’t have the right to vote yet, and so because of the upcoming election, I wanted to give my voice, be heard,” said Paschalidis.

“Our country is a better country today because of all of you. Congratulations to all of you and we wish you nothing but great success and happiness,” said Macdonald in his closing remarks.

Outside after the ceremony, happy families took pictures, enjoyed cupcakes and registered to vote.

“The National Park Service and USCIS have a formal partnership promoting citizenship ceremonies by holding them in national parks throughout the country. This partnership helps to introduce new citizens to some of the nation’s most spectacular natural and cultural resource sites. These historic and picturesque sites provide an ideal backdrop for citizenship ceremonies, where new citizens can learn about and reflect on American identity and the responsibilities of citizenship,” said Cam Juárez, a spokesman for the park.

Stonum said, “It is an honor to continue the tradition of hosting this special event here at Saguaro,” he said. ” Being part of this naturalization ceremony is one the best experiences I’ve ever had in my NPS career.”