DES MOINES, Iowa — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will welcome 66 of America’s newest citizens during a special naturalization ceremony Thursday morning at the U.S. District Courthouse in Des Moines.
“It means everything to them,” said George Sabga, field office director, USCIS. “We talk about hopes and dreams with them, this is their ticket to accomplish all of those.”
This ceremony is part of USCIS’s annual celebration of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. This year, USCIS will welcome more than 36,000 new citizens during more than 200 naturalization ceremonies from Sept. 17 to Sept. 23.
The ceremony Thursday is a culmination of a lot of hard work for these people. They have to first be in the country for at least five years before they can apply. After the application is turned in it takes about five months to complete the process to receive citizenship.
“When you see them hold that certificate, you see all the hard work on their face,” said Sabga. “It’s limitless what they can accomplish after they complete this. They can become lawyers, police officers, politicians, teachers, just all types of things.”
Sabga is familiar with the process as he was born in Venezuela. He completed his citizenship process in 1972 at the age of 12.
“When we do outreaches, it helps because I can relate with them,” says Sabga.
Each applicant must pass an exam that focuses on American history and civics.
“For most of them they are concerned about the civic test,” says Sagba. “It’s like a lawyer really focused on passing the Bar Exam. They can’t do anything else until they pass that.”
Constitution Day and Citizenship Day is commemorated every September 17th in honor of the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787.
In 1952, President Harry Truman signed a bill formalizing the celebration of Citizenship Day. In 2004, Congress established Sept. 17 as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.
U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Celeste F. Bremer will preside over the ceremony, with assistance from USCIS.
The ceremony is one of more than 200 nationwide celebrating Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. It has been moved to the U.S. District Courthouse at 123 E. Walnut Street in Des Moines because of the weather. The ceremony begins at 11:00 a.m.