SHERIDAN — The 4th Judicial District courtroom was standing-room only Thursday, filled with politicians, public officers, community members and proud family members. This wasn’t a typical day in court. As Danielle Law sang the national anthem to 13 new naturalized citizens, it was the first time they held their hand over their heart as an American.
America was built as a society ruled by the law and represented by the citizens. A society that’s foundation is created by opportunity and morals sewn together by American’s forefathers. At the naturalization ceremony Thursday, Judge John Fenn showed he hasn’t forgotten what this means.
“I’m sitting up here today because of what my great, great grandparents did so their great grandson could be a judge,” Fenn said to the courtroom.
“It brings me to tears to think about the hardships they endured to get my family and I here; I look at these individuals and I see my great, great grandparents, so I thank you for your choices, your hard work and your endurance.”
To gain citizenship is a rigorous task for most. Naturalization is a legal process established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1965. Applicants have to file a Form N-400 application for Naturalization and they study extensively on U.S. history, English civics before they take a written test. The requirements include being a permanent resident for at least five years, being married to a permanent resident for three years or having qualifying service in the U.S. Armed Forces. The application process costs $725, which can be the price tag of an immigrants livelihood.
“The process took me a little over a year,” Rhessa Hyasinth Soliven Aviles said. “I’m just nervous and happy because this means so many opportunities, this is such a big blessing for me.”
Aviles will join the rest of her family who has been in Sheridan and Johnson county for almost 30 years. Many of the newest citizens have made homes in the U.S. over time and decided it was time to apply for citizenship.
Ryo Nishida immigrated when he was in the seventh grade from Japan. The culture shock the teenager experienced was huge, but now after decades in the U.S. he can’t imagine returning to his native land.
“This is my home,” Nishida said.
Support surrounded the new citizens. Selfies with Judge Fenn. American flags being waved by kids of all ages celebrating their moms and dads. Tears flooded down faces. But many who filled the audience didn’t have family participating nor did they even know anyone who would be in the ceremony.
“We’re just hear to experience this with our kids because I just think it’s great,” Adam Gulch, father of four said. “Especially with all the issues in our country with immigration right now, it’s important to teach our kids that we respect and embrace our immigrants.”
The naturalization ceremony typically happens once a year. It’s an occasion for the community to gather to celebrate our American heritage.