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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services welcomes 48 new US citizens at special naturalization ceremony at Centro Hispano


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin welcomed 48 new citizens from 29 countries during a special naturalization ceremony Monday at the new Centro Hispano of Dane County building on Madison’s South Side.

“With the help of the United States Customs and Immigration Service, it is our wish to have ceremonies such as this occur on a regular, scheduled basis. It is so important to fulfill our country’s mission of welcoming people from around the world,” said Ben Baltes, a community volunteer and a longtime friend of Centro Hispano who gave the welcome at the event. “Today, as you take the oath of allegiance given by Judge Peterson, know that we welcome you. We appreciate the difference you bring to our country and we want you to remember the duty we all have as citizens.” 

The new United States citizens hailed from 29 different countries including Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, China, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Gambia, Germany, India, Iran, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Korea, Taiwan, Togo, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, Venezuela and Vietnam.

United States Congressman Mark Pocan
(Photo by David Dahmer)

United States Congressman Mark Pocan gave the opening remarks at the ceremony.

“May the many benefits of this country be bestowed on you and your families – opportunity, equality, freedom and a bright future. But remember, those benefits often come to you in proportion to what you put in to achieve those dreams. But the potential is now unlocked with this ceremony today,” Pocan said. “And you do this on the week that we celebrate our country [July 4th], something extra special and memorable, I hope.

“To you and your family and friends, congratulations again. You are now a citizen of a nation that hopes every day to live up to its promises,” he added. “And you are a part of our shared future.”  

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) often participates in naturalization ceremonies at museums, schools, libraries and other notable locations throughout the country to celebrate the conclusion of an immigrant’s journey to citizenship and honor the commitment they have shown along the way.

Presentation of colors by VFW Post 1915
(Photo by David Dahmer)

Special venues not only make these events meaningful for those who have voluntarily chosen to participate in American democracy and dedicated themselves to the country’s future, USCIS said in a press release, but they also “reflect the strength and spirit of the United States.”

Chief U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson, the keynote speaker for the event who administered the oath of allegiance to the new citizens, said that Americans are united by a set of core values that transcend politics including freedom, democracy, and equality.

New citizens take the oath of allegiance during a special naturalization ceremony Monday at the new Centro Hispano of Dane County building.
(Photo by David Dahmer)

“You, our newest citizens, have joined your fellow Americans in a struggle to define and achieve these three things — freedom, democracy, and equality. The struggle is sometimes energetic and it’s sometimes loud and sometimes even angry. But there are days like this morning when we can all see that it is so very much worth it,” Peterson says.

Fabiola Hamdan of the Dane County Office of Immigration Affairs led the recitation of the pledge of allegiance. Dr. Karen Menéndez Coller, executive director of Centro Hispano of Dane County, gave closing remarks.

Dr. Karen Menéndez Coller, executive director of Centro Hispano of Dane County
(Photo by David Dahmer)

“I’m very familiar with this naturalization ceremony. I’m a naturalized citizen, originally from El Salvador, and I know how many complex emotions might arise during this ceremony,” Menéndez Coller said. “Every single Monday at Centro we start our week with an intention: I want you to plant your feet firmly on the ground, reflect on the sounds, the food, the people and the loved ones that got you to this place on the lands where you were born. My intention for you is that you will always carry them in your heart with dignity, humanity and respect. 

“As you embark on your journey as an American citizen, may you hold that close. Being the executive director of Centro is a true honor for me because I believe this is a sanctuary for my staff, for myself, for the community, for our partners, and for you. And from this day forward, you will always be welcome here and in this country for the beautiful human beings that you are. So thank you so much for doing this with us today.”