American Dream Comes True For 39 New Citizens
By TAYLOR GRIFFIN
Claudia Rabenhorst, 44, always will remember Tuesday as the day that she could finally call the United States her permanent home.
As a native of Brazil, she moved to America in 1989 and gained her residency. She began her citizenship journey in December to join her husband and children as an American.
"It means a great deal to me to live in this country with my family and friends," she said. "It's home. We love East Texas."
Mrs. Rabenhorst, along with 38 other impending American citizens, completed their naturalization process in an official ceremony at the United States District Court, Eastern District of Texas, in Tyler on Tuesday. Judge Judith Guthrie presided over the court and announced them as legal citizens.
"I feel assured by your presence here today and knowing all that you have been through to get here that the American dream of freedom and justice for all will continue to shine brightly in the future," she told them.
Among the new citizens, 14 countries were represented including Mexico, the Netherlands, Vietnam and Nigeria.
In order to gain citizenship through naturalization, an immigrant must go through a period of residency before applying to become a citizen, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website. From there, a person must pass an English language test as well as an exam that covers American history, principles and government.
During the ceremony, the new citizens must take an oath that they will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and renounce any allegiance to another country.
To add color and celebration to the day, the color guard dressed in colonial attire and "Uncle Sam," played by Gerry Kuklewicz of the League of Women Voters of Tyler/Smith County, attended.
Andie Rathbone, member of the League of Women Voters of Tyler/Smith County, addressed the new citizens, encouraging them to vote and succeed as Americans. She noted famous immigrants who have greatly affected American culture such as Andrew Carnegie, Yahoo! Inc. founder Jerry Yang and Google co-founder Sergey Brin.
"Immigrants to this country are what have made America great, and they have made our country the leader in creativity and innovation in the world," she said.
Mrs. Rathbone also noted that the first step to becoming a responsible citizen is being educated on the issues of the day. In turn, it will help a person to vote intelligently and become active citizens, she said.
Ekaterina Lloyd, 24, came here from Russia six years ago. The day meant a lot to her, and she will always remember it.
"It's a big day for me. I've been waiting for a long time," she said. "It's a relief. There's no more paper work."
Johanna Jacobs, 49, along with her family became citizens hailing from the Netherlands. She has lived in America for 20 years and began her citizenship process a few months ago. The process went very smoothly, she said, and would recommend it to anyone.
"It's a lot of relief to me. We already live here, so why not make it official?" she said. "We're more respected as an American citizen than as a foreigner."
Judge Guthrie expressed her joy for the occasion throughout the ceremony and is always happy to announce that that day is the last step in their long journey to become a citizen of the United States.
"It's an emotional day for me because I know how important it is to them," she told the
Tyler Morning Telegraph
. "I am thrilled to be a part of this day that they will remember the rest of their lives."