GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Men and women from across the globe marched to the stage proudly at Grand Rapids’ Ah-Nab-Awen Park for a naturalization ceremony. Of all days, it happened on the fourth of July.
It was a moment each of them anticipated for several years. For some it took three years, and for others it took up to three decades. They became United States citizens. Myra Gracia is from Mexico.
“It’s very exciting. It’s such a huge honor. It’s been many many years since we came to the United States. I just thank God for my dad and my mom who had the vision of us being here someday,” Gracia said.
All 80 people bring with them 80 different stories from more than 30 countries.
At the podium, Democratic state representative Winnie Brinks said, “For those of you who are already American citizens let us remember the things that many of us take for granted. As Americans, we enjoy a freedom that citizens of other nations can only dream of.”
Mick Dedvukaj, with Homeland Security, went through the process himself decades ago. He now helps other people do the same.
“There are many legal requirements, among them, you have to be a permanent resident or a green card holder for at least 3 years… you also have to show that you’re a person of good moral character. You have to show that you have enough physical presence,” Dedvukaj explained.
Gracia said she’s had her resident card for years and has been able to go to school. However, there’s one big thing she doesn’t have access to yet.
“… I know for the first time I’ll be able to vote, and I’m looking forward to it. That’s probably one of the major things that will change now because of me becoming a citizen,” Gracia explained.
Federal judge Hugh Brenneman delivered the oath. Now years of waiting came down to two words. Brennenman said to the group, “Please answer, ‘I do.’” The group replied, ‘I do.’”