WASHINGTON – Although Angela Aldave didn't became a citizen of the United States until Wednesday,she said she already feels like it's her home.
“I have been here so many years,” said Aldave,31,who is from Ecuador.
Aldlave,of Fairfax, Va.,is one of 27 people who were sworn in on Wednesday as citizens at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool Steps. The new citizens are from 17 countries,including Afghanistan,Guatemala,Pakistan and Thailand.
The ceremony was one of 63 over two weeks around the country at national parks as part of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day celebrations.
Since 1952,Citizenship Day has been celebrated along with Constitution Day,which was Sept. 17,the day the Constitution was signed.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the National Park Service put the ceremonies together as part of their “Embrace Citizenship – Experience America Through Your National Parks” theme.
The 30-minute ceremony included the oath of allegiance,which all immigrants have to say to become citizens. Many of them held small American flag given to them for the ceremony.
Patrick Corvington was given the Outstanding American by Choice award during the ceremony. Originally from Haiti,Corvington became a citizen 17 years ago.
“It was one of the proudest moments of my life,” he said.
Corvington,CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service,told the new citizens that,while the country offers many opportunities to them,it also means they will have many new responsibilities.
“We weave our life into this America,” he said. “Our journey was not easy. It was a journey filled with tragedy and hope.”
So far this year,495,232 people have become naturalized citizens. In 2009,743,715 people became citizens,and in 2008 it was 1,046,539.
To apply to become a citizen,a person must be a permanent U.S. resident and have lived in the country for at least five years. Among other requirements,applicants must know U.S. government and history.
Aldave,a graphic and web designer,started the application process earlier this year. She came to the United States in 1999 as a student and decided to stay. “It does feel like home,” Aldave said.
Although most of her family lives in Ecuador,she has started a family and life in the U.S. She married a U.S. citizen eight years ago and has two children.
Dressed in his United States Navy uniform,new citizen Jhonny Franco,25,led the pledge of allegiance.
Franco joined the Navy in December because he wanted to give back to the country. He is a hospital corpsman stationed in Washington.
He moved from Colombia to New York in 2001. He had to adjust to the language and cultural differences quickly.
“It's not easy,” he said. “But it's worth it in the end.”