July 04, 2013

New U.S. citizens finally feel like they belong

Nearly 100 people take part in a naturalization ceremony aboard the USS Missouri

Eartha Hoyos’ grin said it all.

Unlike the mostly stoic participants seated around her Wednesday, the Colombian native revealed the joy she felt at the end of her two-year journey toward U.S. citizenship.

"I don't feel like a guest anymore," Hoyos said.

Ninety-eight applicants from 27 countries participated in a naturalization ceremony aboard the USS Missouri battleship at Pearl Harbor.

The event was part of an Independence Day celebration through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is holding 51 naturalization ceremonies across the country between July 1 and 5.

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono spoke at Wednesday's event, drawing on her own experience emigrating from Japan as a child. The other speakers at the ceremony were U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway, chief judge of federal court for Hawaii, and Rear Adm. Bret Muilenburg, Pacific Fleet civil engineer and commander of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Pacific.

"We are a nation of immigrants and there's no better example than here in Hawaii," Hirono said. "I am proof of what this country has to offer."

Of the nearly 100 people who became citizens, six are active members in the armed forces.

The oldest applicant was a 74-year-old man from the Philippines; the youngest was an 18-year-old man from Hong Kong. Some of the countries represented were Ecuador, Laos, India, Belarus and Egypt. The largest ethnic group was from the Philippines.

To become a citizen as an adult, a person must pass a naturalization exam that tests one's ability to speak, write and read English as well as knowledge of major events in American history.

Hirono talked about the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate last month — a measure that aims to loosen restrictions on obtaining green cards for residence in the country.

"Upon its passage, millions of undocumented people in our country will have that opportunity to be on the path that you took to become United States citizens," Hirono said.

Read the entire piece here: http://www.staradvertiser.com/newspremium/hawaiinewspremium/20130704_NEW_US_CITIZENS_FINALLY_FEEL_LIKE_THEY_BELONG.html?id=214251431&id=214251431&c=n

By:  Amy Busek
Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser