WASHINGTON - The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalized 833,000 people - an 11-year high in new oaths of citizenship - in fiscal year 2019, which ended September 30. This fiscal year, USCIS administered the Oath of Allegiance to 60 of America's newest citizens, from 51 different countries, during a special naturalizing ceremony Tuesday at Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.
Holding American flags in their left hands, the group raised their right hands, and placed them over their hearts, and took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America.
"It means a lot, joining one of the world's greatest country of all times and able to serve this country," said Sandra Amoah, a new U.S. citizen originally from Ghana.
For these 60 people from 51 different countries, young and old, this was the final step to become a naturalized citizen of the United States of America. But it also marked a new beginning in their lives.
"It's going to open more doors for me for a young guy growing up, it's a great opportunity right here," Ghana native Yaw Opoku Amoah told VOA.
"I found it very emotional and I feel that it is a privilege that not very many people can obtain," Virginia Growich, a new U.S. citizen who was born in England said.
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Becoming a U.S. citizen bestows many privileges, including being able to bring family members to the U.S., as well as being eligible for federal jobs and to run for public office. But in this crowd, many were excited to able to vote in upcoming presidential elections.
"I got my citizenship, and the most exciting part ... next year it's going to be vote and I will vote, yes," said Sumreen Amer, a new citizen originally from Pakistan.
"I am very interested in being able to vote," Growich agreed.
While the Trump administration has proposed major cuts to legal and family immigration, and capped the number of refugees to the U.S. in 2020 at 18,000, USCIS, the government agency that oversees lawful immigration to the United States, naturalized 833,000 people in fiscal year 2019, an 11-year high in new oaths of citizenship.
Sarah Taylor, acting director of the Washington District, says one reason for the increase in naturalizations might be the upcoming election.
"So we did have a big uptick always before a presidential election. It stayed high in the last couple of years and we anticipated it will remain high," Taylor said.
Coming from such countries as Afghanistan and Yemen, these new citizens are hopeful for a bright future for themselves and their families, as they said: naturalization will open new doors for them in this land of opportunities.