Ceremony a ‘beautiful moment’ for new citizens

Naturalization event held for youths from around metro area

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A group of 51 youths from around the Denver area became United States citizens Nov. 30 at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Centennial.

The naturalization ceremony, which took place on the final day of National Adoption Awareness Month, marked the end of a long journey for many of the new citizens, who ranged in age from 4 to 17. The ceremony recognized children who obtained citizenship through their parents, either through adoption or after their parents became citizens through naturalization.

Stephanie Logan, of Golden, watched as her son, Lazarus, 12, originally from Ghana in West Africa, received his certificate as a citizen. Lazarus has lived in the United States since 2014. Logan and her husband, Cedric, have three other children, Elliot, Audrey and Naomi.

“It’s been a real adventure from the outset,” Logan said. “Always lots of surprises for us, but just a joy for us as a family to learn about each other and to grow and connect together. This for us solidifies that family-ness. This is the last piece of paperwork that has our family name on it together. It’s just a really beautiful moment.”

Naturalization is a process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act. The USCIS welcomes about 750,000 citizens during naturalization ceremonies each year.

The children received certificates recognizing their citizenship once they completed an oath and pledge of allegiance. A video message from the president congratulating the new citizens was played as well.

Logan said she felt excited and relieved once her son received his certificate.

“There’s a certain atmosphere around immigrants today that makes it a really big moment to have his citizenship and to know he is permanently accounted for,” Logan said.

The ceremony came during a time of much controversy surrounding undocumented immigrants coming into the United States, primarily from Mexico. President Donald Trump has led initiatives to attempt to tighten security along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The 51 new citizens hail from all over the world, including Australia, Burma, Canada, China, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Germany, Ghana, Haiti, India, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Philippines, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Togo, Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia.

“We’re really happy,” said Fred Canales.

His daughter, Heydi Canales Zabala, 10, received her certificate during the ceremony. The family moved to Denver from El Salvador in 2012.

“My father is a citizen too, now my daughter,” Fred Canales said. “It’s really nice to be a citizen. And we’re really happy.”

The Certificate of Citizenship serves as evidence of a person’s, or their child’s, U.S. citizenship. The certificates are only issued to people who were born abroad but are U.S. citizens at birth through their parents or who became citizens after birth, but before the age of 18.

Former Colorado Rockies third baseman Vinny Castilla spoke to the children and their families during the ceremony telling his journey to become a United States citizen. Castilla, originally from Mexico, was naturalized in Centennial last month. Afterward, Castilla took photos and signed autographs for the kids and their families.

Castilla spoke about his dream to play in Major League Baseball and how coming to America has helped him realize that childhood dream.

“I was so happy to become an American, because I am so thankful to this country,” Castilla said. “I’m very thankful to this country and grateful what this country has done for me.”

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