Thirty-three immigrants from 19 countries were sworn in as U.S. citizens during a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ceremony on Thursday, June 19, at the James F. Battin Federal Courthouse.
Nearly 100 people attended the event to support loved ones who had immigrated from Barbados, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Guatemala, India, Italy, Japan, Mauritania, Mexico, Mongolia, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
Deputy Court Clerk Heather Mclean said, “We don’t usually have this many people who want to come to court proceedings … . This is about the only time that people are excited to come to court, and we’re OK with that.”
The hour-long ceremony was a joyous and often raucous occasion filled with clapping, hugging, smiling and shouting.
“Hooray for mommy!” a young boy shouted as his mother, Italian-born Veronica Rousseau, accepted her citizenship certificate.
“I did it!” exclaimed a Barbados native as she accepted her certificate and waved a small U.S. flag in the air.
“This is pretty exciting,” U.S. District Judge Susan Watters said near the beginning of the ceremony. “This is the first naturalization ceremony that I’ve presided over because I’ve only been a federal judge for six months.”
She added, “As you can imagine, a lot of what I do in this courtroom is not particularly joyful. When people leave, they are often crying, but not with the tears of joy that I see today. I want to congratulate you on behalf of the United States and the state of Montana.”
Everybody had a reason to celebrate. The ceremony marked the end of a long naturalization process that included filling out paperwork and taking a citizenship test.
The 33 Billings residents join 778,000 immigrants who have become naturalized U.S. citizens during fiscal year 2013.
Judge Watters commented that the long naturalization process helps these new citizens “appreciate being a United States citizen more than people who were born here. Many of us tend to take it for granted.”
Representatives of U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and John Walsh and U.S. Rep. Steve Daines were on hand to give their congratulations to the new citizens.
“Today represents many things,” said Tester’s representative, Rachel Court. “The United States of America is granting you the opportunity to participate in this country as a citizen. In turn, you are granting this country and its citizens the chance to know you and learn from you. As you leave today, know that we are very glad to have you.”
Near the end of the ceremony, Judge Watters reminded attendees of rights guaranteed to U.S. citizens in the Constitution and said, “We have all these rights that I know many of you did not have in your countries of origin, and rights that many natural-born U.S. citizens take for granted, but it’s days like today and ceremonies like this one that remind all of us how wonderful it is to live in the United States and how blessed we are to be United States citizens.”