WASHINGTON — If it hadn’t been for his 9-year-old son,Paras Saxena,37,might never have made it to his American naturalization ceremony Wednesday.
Saxena,an Arlington,Va.,real estate agent who came to the U.S. from New Delhi in 2006,was the last of his family to apply for citizenship. After applying in March,he took the civics test and interviewed to be an American citizen.
His son,Nikhil,who was born in the U.S.,helped him study for the test.
“He knows a lot about U.S. history,he knows a lot about the Constitution,” Saxena said. “He taught me so many things when I was going into the interview.”
Saxena was one of 30 former foreigners who raised their right hands and took the Oath of Allegiance to America at the Treasury Department. The naturalization ceremony was one of more than 100 ceremonies taking place across the U.S. in honor of July 4. Once the celebrations are complete,there will be more than 7,800 new Americans.
“I’m really happy ‘cause I had to wait for five years to become U.S. citizen,” Hitarthi Patel,18,said.
Patel,who originally hailed from Gujarat,India and now lives in Fairfax,Va.,is a sophomore studying chemistry at George Mason University. She immigrated to the U.S. in 2007,and said it took her and her brother,Mayank Patel,25,a little less than six months to become citizens after applying.
The only things Patel misses from India are the festivals,she said,but she is grateful for the opportunities the U.S. provides.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said he was glad to be one of the first people to welcome the 30 new American citizens.
“Today,we’re proud of these new Americans,” Lew said. “And we’re proud of every one of you who raised your hand to take the oath a few minutes ago.”
Lew made a plug for the immigration bill before Congress,describing how the bill aims to reform the immigration system.
“Now I hope that as new citizens,you will make sure that the door you just walked through remains open to the millions of hard-working immigrants who want to call America home,” Lew said.
Saxena’s daughter,Simran,6,and his son,Nikhil — who helped him pass the test — were not at his naturalization ceremony. Saxena said he and his wife sent them to a summer camp for the day.
The date had even more meaning for Saxena and his wife,Hema Sharma,32 — it was their 13th wedding anniversary.
They planned to have dinner at home Wednesday evening to celebrate.
Reach reporter Matt Nelson at [email protected] or 202-408-2735. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.