At Central Park Library’s June 29 Independence Day Naturalization Ceremony held at the parkside entrance, James Wyrough, Field Office Director at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS) San Jose Field Office, announced countries that today’s 81 new American citizens came from. These countries included Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, India, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, Nepal, Nicaragua, Pakistan, the Philippines, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and Vietnam.
Rachel Schmidt, the library’s Program Coordinator for Adult Services, explained why the library was a perfect place to welcome the new American citizens.
“It works great for us to have the Naturalization Ceremony at the library because we want to express our love for democracy,” Schmidt said. “As an institution, we want to open our doors to everyone and let everyone educate themselves and find the tools they need to succeed in life.”
“I encourage you to use your talents to be active citizens and to give back to your community and new country through civic participation and service,” said Hannah Lam, Master of Ceremonies and Immigration Services Officer at the USCIS San Jose Field Office. Lam introduced other speakers, who also congratulated the new citizens and offered words of encouragement.
“Today your voices are being added to the dialogue that drives Santa Clara forward,” said Hilary Keith, Director of the Santa Clara City Library. “As a librarian, I see the power in diverse voices.”
“I’m the daughter of parents who immigrated here from Ireland in the mid-1950s and they later became naturalized citizens,” said Kathy Watanabe, Santa Clara Vice Mayor. “To celebrate this occasion with you is very important to me as well.”
“I remember when my parents were naturalized; what a proud moment it was for them,” said Congressman Ro Khanna, who gave the keynote address. “There is no greater privilege in the world than being a citizen of the United States of America.”
At the ceremony, Teresa O’Neill, Santa Clara City Councilmember, led the Pledge of Allegiance. John Kramar, District Director of USCIS’s San Francisco District Office, led the Oath of Allegiance. Representatives from a number of local agencies gave instructions to the new citizens. Members of Girl Scout Troop 60053 managed flags.
After the ceremony, the new Americans trickled into the library’s Redwood Room for cake.
“I’ve been living in the U.S since October 2010,” said the Iran-born Farzaneh Kohandani. “We used to live in Ontario, Canada and we moved here for my husband’s work. We were able to get a Green Card and become naturalized citizens. I used to work as an engineer in Canada. Here in the U.S., I want to be a spiritual healer and a therapist.”
“I feel very happy and lucky to become a U.S. citizen,” said Swapna Bathula, who came here from India. “I want to work with computers.”
According to Sharon Rummery, Public Affairs Officer of the USCIS’s Northwest Region, 719,000 people throughout the United States became naturalized citizens in 2017.