MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Tuesday marked an important milestone for hundreds of proud Minnesotans. It’s the day they became U.S. citizens.
Some 1,500 immigrants packed into the Minneapolis Convention Center for the largest naturalization ceremony of the year. Each person came to America for a different reason, but each will embrace the new opportunity.
For many, Tuesday had been a long time coming.
“It gives you perspective where you’re starting and where you’re ending,” said Basit Naeem, who immigrated from Pakistan seven years ago with his family.
He said Tuesday was proof that his American Dream is coming true.
“I have a nice job, I have a nice family and am living in a peaceful environment,” Naeem said. “When I think back to my country, things are not going so smooth over there.”
The naturalization ceremony meant different things for each of the new citizens. Robert and Brigitt Martin have been living in the U.S. for more than a decade, and their kids were born here. Becoming citizens meant they can join the democratic process.
“My husband has been telling me, ‘You are a guest in this country for 12 years. You have to sit aside when it’s voting time.’ I kept telling him, ‘You know what? Jan. 21, all the signs are going up in the front yard,’” said Martin, who’s originally from Winnipeg, Canada.
Collectively, the room took the Oath of Allegiance. When it was completed, they became Americans. When words fail to express its importance, the oath helped put the day into perspective. It’s much more than receiving a piece of paper.
“It felt like that they were giving words to what I’m feeling because you are becoming a citizen,” Naeem said. “The whole idea of living the American Dream, at least I’m living it. I’m living it, yup.”
The immigration process takes roughly five months and can cost hundreds of dollars. To become a citizen, immigrants have to prove they can read, write, and speak English and can pass a civics test on the American government.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Keith Ellison were at Tuesday’s ceremony. They each spoke about the importance of immigrants in the U.S. and how they should become active members in their communities.