Fifty-one people officially became American citizens at Texas State’s first ever naturalization ceremony underneath the arch of the Undergraduate Academic Center on Thursday morning.
U.S. District Judge Robert L. Pitman presided over the ceremony and granted citizenship to the people awaiting to officially become Americans.
Family and friends of the newly ordained U.S. citizens, who collectively came from 25 countries and five continents, gathered to celebrate their first day as Americans.
“The United States, a nation built by immigrants, was itself enriched by the influx of people from diverse backgrounds,” said President Denise Trauth. “After all, it is this country’s diverse nature and blending of culture that have made our nation the extraordinary place it is.”
Trauth said she wants the new citizens to remember that the culture and diversity they bring to America is a “positive asset.”
Margarita Arellano, vice president of student affairs and dean of students, said she had to leave her country to come to the United States in order to secure a “safer future” for herself.
A native of Nicaragua, Arellano fled her country in the wake of a civil war that broke out in the 1970s, forcing her and her husband on a “long journey” to the United States.
Arellano’s husband was kidnapped when he attempted to take money out of the bank shortly before the couple made their decision to leave Nicaragua, Arellano said.
She said hundreds of people died in the same area her husband was kidnapped because it was “hit like a war zone.”
“That night, my husband and I decided it was time to leave,” Arellano said. “We didn’t know where or how, we just knew it wasn’t safe anymore.”
Arellano said she would catch herself asking God why the couple’s home had to turn into a war zone.
“As difficult as the journey has been, we owe it to this country for the open arms they are receiving us in,” Arellano said. “We live in a world of immigrants, and I don’t want to forget those who traveled far for this journey.”
Graciela Alvizu, native of Venezuela, was one of the immigrants who became a citizen at the ceremony. Alvizu said freedom was something she never experienced in her homeland.
“This is amazing because I’ve been waiting so long for me to get citizenship and I am happy I got it done the right way,” Alvizu said. “The Unites States has given me too many good things like freedom.”
Melissa Ortiz, Texas State alumnus, attended the ceremony to honor her cousin, Raul Mendoza, who became a U.S. citizen after coming from Mexico when he was 15 years old.
“Raul was living with leukemia, but the doctors in Mexico failed to diagnose him,” Ortiz said. “We knew he had it because another relative of his was also diagnosed.”
Ortiz said a doctor from America came to Mexico to pick Mendoza up and bring him to the states for “proper treatment.” Mendoza is now leukemia-free and has lived in the United States for approximately 17 years.
“Raul has told me that this country gave him his life back—the place where his freedom is valued,” Ortiz said. “If he would have stayed in Mexico he would have died, but he is here and he feels he belongs here.”
Elizabeth Willett, one of the 51 newly ordained citizens, came from Monterrey, Mexico, after meeting an American who later became her husband. Willett said her son was born in the U.S. and she plans to stay in the states with her husband to raise him.
“We are an American family now,” Willett said. “This country is so beautiful and amazing and it is such an honor to be part of it now,” Willett said. “It takes a while to get to this point, but it is worth it.”
The sound of the National Anthem signaled the ceremony’s conclusion as an oath of citizenship was taken and tears flowed down the faces of the newly born citizens of the United States.