For more than ten years U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the National Park Service have partnered to welcome New Americans. Every year dozens of naturalization ceremonies take place in the midst of the scenic landscapes and majestic views of the country’s national parks. And South Dakota is no exception. The ceremonies at the Mount Rushmore National Monument have grown in size, from 60 new citizens in 2007 to 180 in 2017. However, depending on where in the state you live, getting to the ceremony isn’t always that easy. Often money and transportation are major issues. But this year citizenship candidates from Sioux Falls had a smooth ride. Lutheran Social Services’ Center for New Americans was able to charter a bus, made possible through a generous donation from the Daughters of the American Revolution, Mary Chilton Chapter, Sioux Falls. So, on June 15, at 3:15 AM a bus full of tired but excited citizenship candidates with family, friends and CNA staff, including myself, set out across the state to Mount Rushmore. It seemed like a quick ride. The weather was fully cooperating – sunny skies, just a little breeze. The area was bustling with activity. It felt like a mini United Nations. People from over 40 different countries were coming together in this breathtaking scenery under the ‘faces’ in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The sat down on the stone benches of the Amphi Theatre as Green Card holders – and they stood up as new citizens of the United States. They walked across the stage and told us their name, what country they came from and how incredibly proud they were to now be citizens of the United States. And we got on the bus again to start the journey home, again a bus full of tired but excited people. Only now we have a group of New American citizens in our midst.
Written by Silke Hansen, ESL Instructor