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Santa Clara Welcomes 25 New American Citizens

The City of Santa Clara hosted a citizenship ceremony at the Central Park Library on April 9, welcoming 25 new citizens to the United States of America.

For the first time in seven years, Santa Clara had the privilege of welcoming new citizens to the United States. 25 people from 16 different countries gathered in the Redwood Room at Santa Clara’s Central Library on April 9 to take the citizenship oath.

Surrounded by friends and family members, they raised their right hands and promised to “support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign or domestic.”

Each new citizen had a different reason for being there and all were proud to call themselves American by the end of the ceremony.

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“[I’ve] been here for a long time. I started a business here. I’m married to an American. I’ve got three amazing American children,” said Steven Moore, formerly of the United Kingdom. “I want to have the ability to be able to vote and to contribute to the US because I’ve called this my home for so long.”

For United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) San Francisco District Director Melissa Maxim, the event was an opportunity to enjoy her job.

“During the pandemic, we transitioned to, in San Jose specifically, what we call drive ceremonies so that people can remain in their cars and just get out and take the oath, and we did everything locally. It’s really nice. It was really convenient and it was wonderful, but it’s nice to be back out in the community,” said Maxim. “It’s really one of the best parts of my job to be able to recognize and welcome our newest citizens.”

Husband and wife, Argyrios Kyrtzidis and Vasiliki Rounti, formerly of Greece, were eligible to become citizens in 2020, but the pandemic gave them pause. Finally, they decided 2024 was the year to do it.

“We don’t want to go anywhere. We love it here and we want to become citizens, be able to vote, most importantly, and just live here for the rest of our lives,” said Rounti.

She says the process was much easier than they thought.

“We thought it was going to be more complicated, but it was not. So yeah, it was better than we thought it would be,” said Rounti.

The event also celebrated Channy Laux, honoring her with the Outstanding American by Choice Award. Laux immigrated to the United States when she was a teenager, escaping Cambodia following years of control by the Khmer Rouge.

“I suffered emotional and physical torture that no other human being should ever have to experience. I survived starvation, sickness, separation from my family. At one point, I was beaten by a soldier in front of my mother until I become unconscious,” said Laux. “My body, my soul had been subjected to extreme conditions that I gave up on my own hope. I was content with just cleaning home, doing physical labor. I’m happy to be American, to live again. I’m okay with that.

“But America have high hope for me, more than I had for myself. I felt like I was adopted by American government. By my teacher and my friends. They gave me a second chance of life. They allowed me to grow again, at my own rate,” continued Laux. “So when I had the opportunity to pledge allegiance to my adopted country and being part of something great, I had no hesitation. No reservation. I did it with pride. My heart felt that hope.”

After many years of hard work, Laux graduated from high school and eventually went on to receive a master’s degree from Santa Clara University. She spent several decades working as an engineer in Silicon Valley before she started a new path.

She wrote a memoir about her time in Cambodia titled “Short Haired Detention” and opened a restaurant in San Jose serving Cambodian food. She also has a nonprofit with the goal of educating people about what happened in Cambodia in the 1970s.

For more details on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, visit the website.

Previous Posts:
Independence Day Naturalization Ceremony Recognizes New American Citizens
Pathway To Citizenship Resource Fair Draws Crowd At Central Park Library

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1 Comment
  1. Karen Locke 2 weeks ago
    Reply

    Born in the Bay Area and have lived here all my life, the last 43 years in Santa Clara. I am humbled and honored to call these people my fellow citizens. It is one thing to have been born in this country, and maybe accept both the privileges and burdens of citizenship as my life, and sometimes consider discharging the burdens as not worth my time. (This is a personal struggle I have, feeling that I should be more of a political activist and not having the mental health to do so.) Our new citizens, on the other hand, have bought into my existence willingly, rather than it being a feature of birth, and will probably far outshine me in terms of active citizenship.

    Welcome, new citizens!

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