Date:Jul 5, 2005;
Citizens now — and they’re proud
STEPHEN WILLIAMS Gazette Reporter
Twenty-one people became
Her joy at being sworn in as a citizen was so overwhelming she hugged a surprised Citizenship and Immigration Services official and several other people. The gesture brought gasps of laughter from the 250 family, friends and visitors attending a citizenship ceremony held at
S T I L L W A T E R
"She’s really happy here," said her daughter, Ana Leyva of
The 21 people taking the oath of allegiance represented 17 countries on five continents and each had a different story.
Carlos Duque Londono of
"This actually was one of the greatest days of my life," said the 26-year-old native of
Londono, who first sought citizenship a decade ago after coming to this country when he was 10, expects the intelligence specialty will get him stationed overseas for the first time, though he takes it "one day at a time."
"You have so many opportunities, you’ve got to make the best of it," he said of life in the
The oaths of allegiance were given in a setting designed for maximum effect: on
Those sworn in here were among 15,000 men, women and children across the country becoming citizens in ceremonies this week, according to Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of the Department of Homeland Security.
About 450,000 people become naturalized citizens annually, Citizenship and Immigration Services officials said.
This is the second year a naturalization ceremony was held on July 4 at the national historic park. Park officials expect it to become a new annual tradition.
"Simply put, celebrating
Booth, who helped organize last year’s first-ever ceremony and who spoke on Monday, said he expects the tradition to continue "the next umpteen years, people love it so much."
Attendees were repeatedly reminded of the historic significance of the spot.
"Before you lay the grounds where our forbearers fought for liberty. They would be proud this ceremony was being held here," said Joe Finan, assistant park superintendent.
The event took place under a tent on the lawn of the visitors center, on a hilltop that looks out across the fields where the Battle of Saratoga was fought in 1777, to the hills of
"Can it get any better than this? Look at the scenery. The weather is beautiful," said Assemblyman Roy J. McDonald, RWilton, one of the speakers.
McDonald noted most Americans are descended from immigrants, and immigration provides "a never-ending injection of fresh people with new energy, industry and love."
For adults, studying to become a citizen involves learning about American history and politics. But some new citizens are too young to do the homework.
Small children adopted internationally by American citizens automatically become
"The ceremony was just awesome," said Lori Lopez-Hammond of Gansevoort, whose 3-year-old daughter adopted from
But the prize for youngest new citizen participating Monday would go to 23-month-old Marissa Van Dyck, who was adopted from
"It’s nice to be able to make a difference in someone’s life. It is the land of opportunity," said her mother, Celine Van Dyck of Colonie. She said she found the ceremony moving.
"There were tears in my eyes, and I wasn’t expecting that," Van Dyck said afterward, surrounding by family.
MEREDITH L. KAISER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER Carlos Andres Duque Londono of Queens, a native of
MEREDITH L. KAISER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER Ana Fuguet of