Catalina Patz was all smiles Thursday afternoon after she officially became a citizen. The 53-year-old Spanish teacher from Troup stood in the hallway outside the courtroom in the William M. Steger Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse with her family.
The Bullard resident said everyone in the area welcomed her when she first arrived, and that her students applauded when she told them she was becoming a citizen.
Ms. Patz was one of 41 new citizens from 12 countries who took the oath of citizenship. The countries represented included Russia, India, Cameroon and Nigeria.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Guthrie welcomed the new American citizens, saying she loves presiding over the ceremonies. “It's one of the few times that everyone is happy to be in court,” she said as the crowd laughed.
She told the new citizens and their families that it would be OK to hold on to their traditions and customs from their countries of origin and that the U.S. is a country of immigrants. “Your official public loyalty will be to the United States once you take that oath,” Judge Guthrie said.
The only negative part about Thursday, Judge Guthrie said, was that the new citizens would not be able to exercise their right to vote in this year's presidential election on Nov. 6. One must be registered to vote at least 30 days before an election, she said.
A group of ninth-grade students from Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Regional Catholic School watched as the new Americans took their oaths. Several students, Victoria MacClements, 15, Anaelisa Vasquez, 14, and Javier Destarac, had parents or other family members who have become citizens in the past few years.
“It's nice to watch — it takes a lot of work to be a citizen,” Miss MacClements said. Their teacher, Daye Collins, who has taught American History at Gorman for 17 years, said she brought her students to the ceremony because many of them take their citizenship for granted.
“I want them to see what it takes to become a citizen,” she said.