Despite the rains pouring the whole day of oath ceremony and the bitter cold weather, almost a thousand permanent residents garbed in their best suits and dresses took their braved the inclement weather to take their oath of allegiance, a very important last step for American citizenship at the symbolic Paramount Theater in downtown Oakland City in California. .
The citizenship aspirants tag along their close relatives and friends who brought along roses and other gifts like certificate cases not only to boost their morale but also to witness first-hand the momentous event and at the same time show their love in the oath ceremony held in the month of hearts.
The oath takers that lined up both streets leading to the theater are part of the some 1,069 candidates for the afternoon session of the whole day oath ceremony. That morning, an estimate of about 1,100 others took their also under the cold windy rainy day.
With wife Francia lending much-needed helping hand, wheelchair-bound Julian Buena of BaoCamarines Sur and is now residing in San Mateo CA endured the cold and windy rainy sidewalk to the theater.
“I may look weak as I am in wheelchair but I feel happy to be braving the rains while waiting to get in for the oath ceremony. I have been here in the U.S. for eight years already and it is just the right time for me to become a citizen especially since I have additional benefits I can now avail of being disabled,” shared a beaming Buena who is now the third of seven siblings to become a U.S. citizen and his remaining four other siblings are expected to follow in the coming months. .
Another San Mateo CA resident is Christina, not her real name, a middle-aged Filipina from Manila who is joined by her husband who had to skip the rest of the day’s work to be with her in this momentous day of oath ceremony.
“It is ok to be waiting in line on this windy rainy day. The cold feeling is nothing compared to the excitement that I feel as I get nearer to the entrance of the theater. Finally, my dream of being an American citizen would be fulfilled today and I will now won’t have a hard time in getting a visa should I decide to visit other countries,” uttered a visibly happy Christina who was too busy with multiple jobs to really take care of applying for citizenship. .
BocaueBulacan natives husband and wife Ray and Teresitadelos Reyes who now resides in Martinez CA had a faster route to citizenship for it took them only three years to become citizens since they came to the U.S.
“We consider ourselves lucky that it took us only that short span of time to be citizens. We have Filipino friends who overstaying and are not even sure if they would be able to stay long considering the policies of the present administration on immigrants,” Ray admitted.
“Our hearts go out to them who are still uncertain of their status although some have been here for more than ten years now. They came here to seek better future for their families back home,” Teresita lamented.
Inside the theater, Hayward CA resident Raymond Quiñones of Caba La Union sits alone in the balcony where other loved ones are but feels relieved that his wife Jennilyn is taking her oath after only a year of coming to the U.S.
“We can now really start our own family as we look forward to having children in the coming years,” imparted Quiñones who can now have his own children to take care of after helping raise nephews and nieces of his siblings.
These interviewed aspirants were part of the almost a hundred Filipinos that comprise the fourth largest number of afternoon oath takers in terms of ethnicity. The first three largest ethnic groups were the Chinese, Indians and Mexicans while in totality, there were 98 different countries represented in that batch of oath takers.
Before the oath ceremony proper, others who spoke in front of the oath takers to remind of important were representatives from the Department of State to give information in getting the United States passport, a very important document that will confirm American citizenship and from the Social Security Administration (SSA), an office that offers benefits to more than sixty million people, to advice them of the need for them to inform local SSA offices of their change in citizenship status.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Field Office Director Richard Valeika administered the oath of allegiance while U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Director of Field Operations Brian Humphrey, a great grandson of immigrants originally from Germany, was the keynote speaker.
“We are very proud of each and every one of you for all what you’ve done to get where you are. Each of you has a compelling life story and followed the same process and I congratulate you in following the same process in becoming citizens,” Humphrey greeted the new American citizens. “This will be the last time that you will have to stand in immigration line. I urge to register to vote as soon as possible and start a whole lifetime of participation in American democracy.”
According to USCIS figures, the agency welcomed more than 7.4 million naturalized citizens during the last decade with an annual average of approximately 700,000 to 750,000 citizens taking oath during naturalization ceremonies across the United States and around the world.
In fiscal year 2017 – July 2, 2018, USCIS naturalized 716,000 and legal immigrants to the United States number approximately 1,000,000 per year, of whom about 600,000 are Change of Status who already are in the U.S.
There were 73 percent of all persons naturalizing resided in 10 states (in descending order): California, New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington, Virginia, and Maryland in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016.
In the same year, the leading metropolitan areas of residence were New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA (16.3 percent), Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA (8.2 percent)., Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL (7.9 percent), while the top countries of origin for naturalization were in the following order: Mexico, India, Philippines, People’s Republic of China, and Cuba.
Fiscal year 2008 saw the year with the most permanent residents naturalized with 1,046,539, FY 2013 coming next with 779,929, FY 2012 with 757,434, FY 2016 with 752,800, FY 2009 with 743,715 and FY 2015 with 730,259.
There are now around 37,000,000 legal immigrants to the United States which is now are at their highest level ever.
Wheelchair-bound San Mateo CA resident Julian Buena of BaoCamarines Sur (right) came with his wife Francia (left)
More than a thousand permanent residents from 98 countries take their oath of allegiance at the Paramount Theater in downtown Oakland CA.
Originally from BocaueBulacan and now Martinez CA residents husband and wife Ray (right) and Teresitadelos Reyes (left)
Hayward CA resident Raymond Quiñones of Caba La Union feels relieved while seated in the theater balcony waiting for his wife Jennilyn to take her oath