Immigration

A short drive from Homestead detention center, 26 people from 12 countries became citizens

New citizens are sworn in just in time for July 4th

7,500 people in over 100 ceremonies will become American citizens just in time for Independence Day. In Florida, 7 ceremonies will be held. The one featured in this story took place at the Everglades National Park on July 3, 2019.
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7,500 people in over 100 ceremonies will become American citizens just in time for Independence Day. In Florida, 7 ceremonies will be held. The one featured in this story took place at the Everglades National Park on July 3, 2019.

As thousands of migrants wait to hear whether they will be deported from the Homestead detention center, 26 immigrants celebrated their newfound citizenship at a naturalization ceremony at nearby Everglades National Park on Wednesday morning.

The ceremony is one of nearly 110 that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) held across the country this week in honor of Independence Day to welcome almost 7,500 new citizens into the U.S. The South Miami-Dade ceremony involved individuals from 12 countries, with 15 hailing from Cuba.

“America is, and has always been, a nation of immigrants,” Immigration Services officer Sarahi Lim Baro told the audience of new citizens and their families.

Attendees stood for the national anthem, rose as their country of origin was called out and recited the Oath of Allegiance before receiving certificates acknowledging their citizenship. Those with minor children in their custody passed their citizenship along to their kids as well.

Holding the ceremony at a national park was significant to the occasion, Everglades National Park Superintendent Pedro Ramos said. Ramos shared his personal experience in Puerto Rico, growing up near the San Juan Island National Historic Park, and visiting it every weekend.

“It was on those grounds where I learned who I was as a Puerto Rican,” Ramos said. “It was on those grounds where I learned who I was as an American.”

The National Parks system, which includes 420 conservation sites across the country, exhibits “the democracy from which this nation is built upon,” Ramos said, because “America’s most special places have been set aside to belong to all of us.”

The sense of collective ownership was echoed in a video message from President Donald Trump.

“This country is now your country,” Trump said. “You enjoy the full rights and the sacred duties that come with American citizenship.”

Among the newly naturalized citizens was Ileana Gonzalez, from Cuba, who came to the U.S. in June 2014.

“I have a daughter,” Gonzalez said. “She’s 1-year-old; she’s my inspiration.

“Because of my baby, I become a U.S. citizen. I would like to be part of this great nation.”

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Ileana Gonzalez, of Cuba, holds back tears as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the Oath of Allegiance to America’s newest citizens during a special naturalization ceremony at Everglades National Park on Wednesday, July 3, 2019. AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com

Maria Hilma Rosale, 72, from Honduras, also celebrated gaining citizenship after seven years. Joining her daughter, she said she was excited to finally be able to vote, a sentiment shared among the new citizens.

“As Americans, we are united not by background, race or religion, but by our common citizenship,” Lim Baro said, reading a message from USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli. “I encourage you to use your talents and skills to build a better, stronger America.”

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