One hundred one new United States citizens took the Oath of Citizenship Thursday morning on the grounds of the Benjamin Harrison Home. Judge Sarah Evans Barker presides over the event and explains that the words are packed with meaning and tradition.
"It matters that these are the same words that everyone before you who've been naturalized have said and will say in the future," says Evans Barker.
The summer ceremony always falls on the day before Independence Day. It’s filled with iconic patriotic touches, from the miniature American flags handed out by kids in the audience to heartfelt speeches about the new citizens’ connection to America’s past and its future.
Blessly Aphiakap, a Burmese citizen who was born in India and brought to the U.S. at age 6, has said the Pledge of Allegiance a thousand times – but never before Thursday as a citizen. The whole ceremony made an impression on her.
"Today I wasn't exactly expecting that much, but seeing everybody and how everyone really took it to heart, it's actually a pretty big honor," says Aphiakap.
Becoming a citizen requires living in the U.S. for at least five years, three if you’re married, completing interviews, providing documents and passing an English language and civics test. For Johnathan Salazar who was born in Mexico, it took over 15 years.
"I've been looking forward to this day for a long time, now that's finally here I can say I'm very happy and this long journey to get here has definitely been worth it and sealed with today's ceremony," says Salazar.
During the last decade, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services welcomed more than 6.6 million naturalized citizens into the fabric of our nation.