Shabnam Khaje Nassir Jahromi, of Iran, came to America 10 years ago because her parents wanted more opportunities.
On Monday, the day before July 4, she became a United States citizen, along with 113 other people from 48 different countries who packed into a large white tent in Southport, North Carolina, to be sworn in as U.S. citizens.
“I’ve been crying for two weeks now,” she said. “It’s unbelievable. This is really exciting. I’m really proud to be here and be part of this. There’s no words for it, this is just amazing.”
Jahromi, 31, works as a makeup artist helping cancer patients. She said she counted herself as an American citizen, but just “not on paper.”
“I’m self-employed, so as far as my job goes, I was like, it’s better for me to go ahead and do it because I’m not going to go back,” she said.
Yanet Diaz Fernandez came to the U.S. as an infant. She was five months old when her parents brought from Cuba as part of the Mariel Boat Landing, during which 125,000 Cubans immigrated to the U.S. between April and September of 1980.
“There was a dictatorship, and the relations in Cuba with other foreign powers was stressed at best,” she said. “And there was a lot of difficulty there and there was no freedoms whatsoever.”
For Fernandez, who works as a medical translator, citizenship has been a long time coming.
“I’m happy that it finally happened,” she said. “I was able to get money together and go through all the hoops, but I’m glad I’m here and I’m glad I’m doing that. I’m excited to get my United States passport so that I can travel as an American citizen.”
Fernandez’ parents both live in North Carolina as permanent residents but not citizens. Both are from Cuba and are still learning more English every day. She says her father is more eager to become a citizen than her mother, who’s worried about the difficult test that she would need to pass as well as the extensive interviews.
But it was all worth the effort for Fernandez.
“This is what I call home,” she said. “Cuba is where I was born, but America is my home. The United States is my home.”
Everyone who was sworn in Monday was a green-card holder, said Jay Weselmann, the Raleigh-Durham field office director with the United States Citizen and Immigration Services.
“By law, every citizen who goes through the citizenship process has to be sworn in by a judge or myself,” he said. “Today is a judicial ceremony, so they will take the oath of allegiance.
“They’ve had to prove they’re a person of good moral character,” Weselmann said. “They’ve had to maintain residence in the United States, and also pass a reading, writing and civics test.”
After being sworn in by United States Magistrate Judge Robert T. Jones Jr., each new citizen received a packet containing a U.S. Passport application and voter registration application.
Oath of Allegiance
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”