On November 5, I had the opportunity to register voters at two naturalization ceremonies in Manassas, VA. While these ceremonies represented an inspirational day away from the office for me, many of the naturalization candidates had been waiting years or decades for this moment.
The path to naturalization is difficult and confusing, to say the least. I will not pretend to have even the slightest idea what many of these people went through to achieve citizenship. From my superficial research alone, I am impressed by anyone who can navigate these rough waters and make it to the finish line! Later, I’ll share some of the interesting facts and figures I discovered. But for now, back to the ceremonies...
Much like in the Olympics, the ceremonies began with an emcee announcing each of the countries represented in the applicant pool and those soon-to-be-citizens proudly stood to applause from the spectators. It was fun to hear the support from the people in the crowd and see which country received the most applause.
The applicants were then led through the oath and the pledge of allegiance. There were short speeches on the benefits of citizenship and a video welcome from the president. Everyone received a flag in their naturalization packet and you could see them throughout the crowd at various times. People were happy to be here, it was a special occasion. Attending one of these ceremonies, you forget about the rhetoric on the news and the slant of various political administrations. People still want to come to America.
Once the ceremony was finished, the attendees filed out of the auditorium to pick up their Certificates of Naturalization. Just beyond those tables, HeadCount was there to help them exercise their first right as newly minted U.S. citizens. We registered them to vote!
In the span of three hours, over two separate events, we registered 598 people! That is more people than many of our four-day festivals throughout the summer. However, unlike at many of our typical events, these people lined up to turn in their paperwork. There was no need to debate whether or not that one vote would make a difference. Voting is a right that comes with citizenship and these people were not willing to pass up the chance to make their voices heard.
If you have a chance to join us at a future naturalization ceremony, I would highly recommend it.
Here are a few interesting facts and figures I learned while researching this story:
- It can take over a year from the time you submit your paperwork until you actually get to take the oath.
- There are almost nine million immigrants in the United States with permanent resident status who are eligible to apply for naturalization.
- In FY18, over 756,000 people were naturalized.
- One organization made a list of the best cities in which to naturalize! Check it out here.
- According to the 2017 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, immigrants from Mexico, India and China made up 29% of the 707,265 people naturalized in FY17. Meanwhile, 5 people immigrated from the Seychelles.
We hope to be registering new citizens at events across the country in 2020, so please keep an eye on the site and join us at an event near you!