On Nov. 20, Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum of American Art held a naturalization ceremony for 37 people from 18 countries including Belgium, Burma, Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Laos, Mexico, Nepal, Nicaragua, Pakistan, People’s Republic of China, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Vietnam.
Over a hundred people filled the 12 rows of chairs in the main lobby and watched from the second floor of the museum as the second-annual naturalization ceremony took place.
The opening remarks were dedicated to the Amon Carter’s mission of being a public space for people in our community and nation.
“We celebrate here at this museum what it means to be American,” said Amon Carter Executive Director Andrew Walker. “And today we celebrate you and all that you bring to America.”
Jesse Mattox, a supervisory immigration services officer with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, remarked on how becoming an American citizen is a like joining a community.
He declared that each candidate had been examined by a U.S. immigration services officer and has a residence and presence within this jurisdiction.
“Each has demonstrated an understanding of our language, culture and government,” Mattox said. “These candidates for naturalization have been recommended for citizenship.”
Following the formal declaration, all candidates took an American flag out of their packets, stood, raised their right hand and repeated the oath of citizenship read by Lisa McElrath, section chief of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
Everyone present whooped and cheered, candidates waving their flags, as the 37 people were declared citizens of the United States.
Andy Nguyen Tarrant County Commissioner of Precinct 2 and a naturalized citizen himself came up to speak and share his story following the oath.
“The beauty of being a naturalized American is that we can really feel the joy of being an American,” Nguyen said, adding that immigrants know that they are not entitled to being American. They “had to fight, overcome obstacles and earn the privilege. And my family did the same,” he said.
He invited the now-citizens to cherish their newfound freedom and build the American dream for themselves.
“I encourage you to envision your American dream right now. You are in the country with the most opportunity. How will you express yourself with American freedom of speech? How will you convene with the freedom to assemble? How will you protect yourself with the second amendment? Think big and pursue that dream,” Nguyen said.
According to Nguyen, in preparation to seize the opportunities in America, new citizens have to do a few things:
— Be able to communicate with others to express your ideas, experience and vision.
— Be prepared to explore opportunities and don’t squander them
— Get involved, help others and give back
“You just won the lottery, congratulations.” Nguyen said. “We’re all owners of this society and as owner we have responsibilities. We have the responsibility to take care of America.
He encouraged the newly naturalized citizens to build on their reasons for emigrating.
“Don’t lose sight of the reasons you came to America,” he said. “Build on that reason and think about the future of your family and the future of your children. Make something of this opportunity.”
The ceremony prepared for close with the pledge of allegiance and the Fort Worth Youth Orchestra’s rendition of America the Beautiful as certificates were presented to all new citizens.
The Amon Carter presented each candidate with the book An American Album featuring select American art from the museum’s collection. Following the ceremony, the museum stayed opened exclusively for the new citizens during the afternoon so they could explore the exhibits and find somewhere to reflect on all that’s happened to lead them to this moment.
In addition to the museum’s gift and their naturalization certificate, each new citizen was presented with a packet which included:
— an American flag
— The Citizen Almanac
— a copy of the Declaration of Independence
— a copy of the U.S. Constitution
— words to the national anthem and Pledge of Allegiance
— a ceremony packet
— a passport application
— a pamphlet on voting facts
Ceremonies like this are currently pretty few and far between in Tarrant County and North Texas. Most of the time, candidates for citizenship simply go to a small government office and receive their paperwork and packet there.
To host a naturalization ceremony, any public space just has to reach out to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services with a gift donation and request. Dallas hosts four ceremonies a week and Fort Worth and Tarrant County can as well, it just takes someone reaching out.
Contact Public Affairs Officer Arwen FitzGerald with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.