Flag Day, June 14, 2018, was a joyous occasion for many refugees and immigrants from South Dakota. The day itself was beautiful, sunshiny, and a wonderful welcome for the 168 new citizens who participated in the naturalization ceremony at Mount Rushmore.
Forty-one countries were represented at the ceremony, including American Samoa, Belarus, Belgium, Bhutan, Brazil, Burma, Burundi, Cambodia, Canada, China, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Iceland, India, Iraq, Kenya, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, the Philippines, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, Sudan, Thailand, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Vietnam.
Presiding over the ceremony, Chief U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey Viken, expressed, “What you have done by choosing to become citizens is to enrich and strengthen all of us. And now we are one. Welcome home.”
Several students of the Center for New Americans, among them were students Prithi and Ninga Tamang, from Bhutan, their son, and daughter-in-law. After becoming a citizen, Ninga says, “I love America and everything about here! Being American citizen gives us hope of bright future and life long satisfaction. Because once we were refugee and lost hope of better life but now everything seems all right and happier than before. I got opportunity to see different country, people and experience their beautiful culture. My children have excellent life here.” During the ceremony, their son expressed his appreciation, “I am a refugee, and actually I never had citizenship. This is my first time. I’m very proud. Thank you America!”
LSS Citizenship Instructor John Haraldson commented, “It gives them hope because they feel like they are a part of the country they are living in. They feel like they are safe and more connected to America. For some students, it is their first time ever having citizenship anywhere. It is very special for them.”
Also among the new citizens was former LSS instructor, Kristin Kuchenbecker. After the ceremony, she commented that it was a “great day for all 168 of us. All people sworn in today had remarkable stories.” Like many new Americans, she says that her reasons for becoming a United States citizen was multi-fold, but she is definitely looking forward to participating in our democracy instead of only talking about it. Kristin says, “There is no place like [the United States] in terms of diversity and that should be celebrated daily!”
As we celebrate freedom this month, we are happy to welcome all our new citizens and hope for a great future for them!
Written by Heather Glidewell, LSS ESL and Citizenship Instructor