More than 70 new citizens sworn in at Dillon Amphitheater
More than 70 immigrants, with roots in 34 different countries, took the Oath of Allegiance on Thursday, Oct. 8, at the Lake Dillon Amphitheater and became naturalized citizens of the U.S.
Kristi Barrows, Denver district director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, performed the oath and reminded those assembled to embrace their diverse backgrounds.
“You made a choice to be a part of the country,” she said. “Share who you are and how you got here.”
Nadim Quarshie, a native of Ghana who has been in the states for 12 years, said he’s loved every minute in this country. Scholastic pursuits and family ties were the original lures that brought him to the U.S.
“I like going to school, and the opportunities are there if you want to pursue them,” he said.
After 26 years in the U.S., Vineet Joshi can verify that a career path is open to those with an interest.
He majored in mechanical engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington and relocated to Colorado from Austin in 1999 with his wife and children. His family motivated his decision to become a naturalized citizen.
“Once I got married, I figured I’d live here forever,” he said.
Although his parents still reside in India, he said they also encouraged his decision.
Tom Breslin, Dillon’s town manager, reminded the naturalized U.S. citizens that their new status allows them the privilege to vote, which he characterized as a duty.
“Make yourself aware of issues important to your community,” he advised. “And make elected officials aware of your concerns.”
In a nation full of diversity, he said people must agree to disagree, while respecting everyone’s viewpoint.
“The goal is the common good,” he said.
Byron Rojas, assistant manager at Wal-Mart in Frisco, came to the U.S. more than two decades ago at the age of six. The Guatemala native said the ability to vote and have his voice heard was a major motivator to pursue naturalized citizen status.
“For many immigrants, voting is a special privilege,” he noted.
Jamaican native Neto Rozetta, who has been in the U.S. for 15 years, said he decided to start the paperwork about six months ago to become a naturalized citizen.
“It’s a seal of approval, but, basically, you feel the same,” he said.
Simon Oo, a political refugee from Burma, has been in the U.S. for six years this October. Prior to his time in the states, he spent two years in Malaysia after fleeing political unrest in his native land.
“I’m very blessed to become part of the (U.S.) culture,” he said.
Despite being surrounded by his foster family and assorted friends, He still yearns to see family members in Burma.
“We talk every two months, but sometimes the (telephone) connection is lost,” he said.
Family associations are at the root of Pascal Deseau’s desire to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. The French native said his grandmother moved to the States in 1947 after working with the Red Cross in southern France during WWII.
“My family was mainly here, and I wanted to be with them,” he said. “Also, I was thankful to this country for what they did many years ago (during WWII).”
Talking after the ceremony at Dillon Amphitheater, his thoughts drifted to his dearly departed grand-mère.
“She was the foundation,” he said. “I know she’s watching us today from up above.”
For those in attendance in flesh or spirit, the ambiance of Dillon Amphitheater provided an idyllic setting for the ceremony.
Andy Lambrecht, USCIS Denver field office director, said naturalization ceremonies are normally held in less auspicious surroundings.
“My wife and I were in Summit County during the summer and, while walking around Dillon Reservoir, thought this would be an amazing place to hold a ceremony,” he said.
He got in touch with Kerstin Anderson, town of Dillon director of marketing and communication, who helped bring the idea to fruition.
Breslin noted many participants did not reside in the area but were certainly welcome to return.
“Now that you’ve seen it, I hope you’ll come back many more times to visit,” he said. “Hopefully, it will hold a special place in your hearts.”
Lebanon native Maysa Semman, who has been in the U.S. for five years, said residing in Colorado has been impactful.
“It’s a beautiful place and an ideal environment to raise a family,” she said. “I love the sunshine, and people are really friendly here.”
She laughed while noting the traffic around Denver isn’t nearly as troublesome as Lebanon.
“Compared to other places, it’s not very busy, but not very slow,” she said.
In her estimation, Denver offers a happy medium with ample activities but not too much congestion.
After spending most of his life in the U.S., Rojas has a difficult time imagining residing anywhere else.
“We grew up here, and we got use to this way of living,” he said.
After making numerous trips back to his native Guatemala, he noted the lack of opportunities.
“You realize you can’t make a living over there,” he said.
He said one of his primary motivations to become a naturalized U.S. citizen was to relocate his aging parents to the States.
“There’s nobody to take care of them,” he said. “Also, the paperwork process is getting more complex.”
With the presidential election cycle getting into swing, he also worries that the next head executive might change immigration rules.
Breslin told the assembled immigrants they are living examples that the citizenship process is successful.
“It warms my heart to see that the system, although not perfect, is working,” he said.
Barrows pointed out that the constant influx of immigrants is crucial to America’s continued success.
“That is how we will stay the greatest country in the world,” she said.
Despite taking the oath to America, Breslin said those present should continue to embrace their cultural identities.
“You’re putting your first allegiance to the U.S. — but not giving up pride, customs and culture of your native country,” he said.
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