Tucson, AZ – This Fourth of July, 21 people from 10 countries became United States citizens in a special ceremony held at Saguaro National Park, Tucson Mountain District. This was the eighth such ceremony held in partnership with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at Saguaro National Park.
The naturalization ceremony took place in the park’s visitor center at 9 a.m., with citizenship granted to immigrants from Brazil, Chile, Iraq, Canada, India, Mexico, Nepal, and the Philippines. The Honorable Judge Bruce G. Macdonald presided over the naturalization ceremony which included remarks from Saguaro National Park Superintendent Leah McGinnis, and Pima County Board of Supervisors Chairman Richard Eliás as the keynote speaker.
Superintendent McGinnis, welcomed the new citizens noting, “the Declaration of Independence’s words have long been a beacon of hope and opportunity for millions around the world. “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is important to never take these words and rights for granted.” McGinnis went on to say that, “These national park units are a collective expression of where we have been, what sacrifices have been made to get here, and how our values have been forged.”
Recognizing the importance of having naturalization ceremonies in national parks, Superintendent McGinnis noted, “It is an honor to continue the tradition of hosting this special event here at Saguaro. It is especially humbling to share in the emotions of these individuals as they become citizens of the United States of America.”
“As this room so wonderfully demonstrates, we are a nation of immigrants,” remarked Judge Macdonald. Though acknowledging that our nation has come together as a melting pot, blending traditions into our culture and accepting one form of governance, he encouraged the new citizens to hold on to their culture, their traditions, their languages and their religious faith, stating, “No one should ask you to give that up.” The judge also encouraged the citizens to embrace their rights as citizens, to use their votes as their voice in our political process, and to sit on a jury of peers as part of our justice system.
The ceremony came to a close with a Mariachi singer, Destiny Olea performing a beautiful a cappella rendition of The National Anthem that clearly emoted pride to the candidates with their hands firmly over their hearts.
After the ceremonies, the new citizens and their friends and families celebrated in the Red Hills Visitor Center. Park staff and volunteers served cake and refreshments, generously donated by Friends of Saguaro, the non-profit fundraising partner of the park. Some new citizens purchased t-shirts and water bottles, while others went off to celebrate with their families. Some of the new Americans shared their thoughts about becoming naturalized citizens. “It’s an exciting day, not only because it’s America’s birthday, but also because we are now citizens of these United States,” remarked one of the new citizens. She admitted sheepishly that it was her first time in a national park; but that she was going to celebrate her citizenship annually, by returning to Saguaro and visiting other parks with her family.
The event this year filled the Red Hills Center almost to capacity. Julie Frank and her husband who live near the park wanted to witness the already crowded event, so they volunteered to serve cake to the participants in order to participate. “The ceremony was touching, a combination of solemnity and joy. We had our own naturalization experience with our son 27 years ago and wanted to give back to this process. To see these new citizens take the Oath of Citizenship was very meaningful.”, said Julie Slayton Frank.
“The National Park Service and USCIS have a formal partnership promoting citizenship ceremonies by holding them in national parks throughout the country. This partnership helps to introduce new citizens to some of the nation’s most spectacular natural and cultural resource sites. These historic and picturesque sites provide an ideal backdrop for citizenship ceremonies, where new citizens can learn about and reflect on American identity and the responsibilities of citizenship,” said Cam Juárez, Community Engagement Coordinator for Saguaro National Park.