LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Forty-nine new Americans completed their citizenship process Wednesday morning in Little Rock at the Clinton Presidential Center.
Each person took an oath of allegiance before a federal judge pledging their love to the country. A few also saw this as an act of love for wife or husband.
The citizenship candidates originate from 22 countries: Burkina Faso, Burma, Cambodia, Canada, China, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Iran, Iraq, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Africa, Syria and Vietnam.
“The American dream it’s not just the end of the road, but the beginning of a new life,” Marius Nagalo said.
Nagalo became a citizen five years ago and his wife Murielle did the same Wednesday. Both were born in Burkina Faso, Africa.
“We were college sweethearts,” Murielle Nagalo Compaore stated.
They said they dated for six years before becoming married, and, because of the naturalization process and waiting on a green card, Murielle said they had to live apart for five years before being together.
They said this day gives them a feeling of security, knowing they will never have to separate again.
The venue of the Clinton Presidential Center was chosen in honor of Presidents Day. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Memphis field office presented the candidates to Chief Judge D.P. Marshall Jr., who administered the Oath of Allegiance. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton offered his congratulations to the new citizens through a video message.
“The American experiment does not work without folks like you. Folks who see the opportunity of this country and decide to build your lives here,” Clinton said.
Each person earning citizenship today had to live in America as a lawful immigrant at least three to five years and show the ability to read, speak, and write in English. They also passed a naturalization test on U.S. history and government.
From Mongolia to Iraq, India to Honduras, each person has a story.
“I met an American out and about at a bar on a random night,” Chantal Brice said.
Chantal met Jarrod Brice when they were both teaching in South Korea. He’s from Arkansas, but her family is in Canada.
“They (my family) were joking that I could have just crossed the border if I wanted to marry an American that badly,” Chantal said.
Now, 13 years into their marriage, she solidified a place with her husband, her children, and like many before her, an adopted country.
“To be able to claim that new American citizenship, the energy is kind of invigorating, and it’s really hopeful, and there is lots of smiles. It’s lovely,” Chantal said.
“You’re part of something big. Bigger than you,” Marius Nagalo concluded.
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, our country welcomed nearly seven-and-a-half million naturalized citizens over the past decade.