Nearly three dozen immigrants became U.S. citizens today at Oatlands Historic House and Gardens near Leesburg, in the midst of Constitution Week and three days after Citizenship Day.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Director L. Francis Cissna was on hand Thursday morning to administer the oath of allegiance and present 31 candidates from 22 countries, including two already on duty in the U.S. Army, with their citizenship certificates.
“I am honored to be the first person to call you citizens of America,” Cissna said once he administered the oath. “By becoming U.S. citizens, you preserve and carry on our proud heritage.”
Cissna told the new Americans that they would have exciting opportunities and responsibilities, including being able to vote. He asked them to go with their families after the ceremony to celebrate in “the most American way possible,” suggesting a trip to Burger King as an option.
He also urged the new citizens to not forget their past, telling them that teaching their children their native languages would be important. “That is the best gift you can give them,” he said.
Also on hand to deliver the keynote speech was Randy Minchew, the former 10th District Virginia delegate. Minchew talked about American ideals found in the U.S. Constitution and quoted lines from the Declaration of Independence, referring to the document as a “justification for treason.”
“American citizenship is exceptional because America is exceptional,” he said. “You have not only a calling, but I submit an obligation to seek [perfection of the Constitution’s ideals].”
Countries represented at the ceremony included Afghanistan, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, El Salvador, Finland, France, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Iraq, Pakistan, Peru, the Republic of Serbia, South Korea, Tajikistam Ukraine and Vietnam.
According to Jim McKinney, the supervisory public affairs officer for citizenship and immigration services, the ceremony was special for group because they weren’t hand-picked for it, they were just next on the list to become citizens.
During Constitution Week, which spans from Sept. 14-23, citizenship and immigration services will welcome nearly 45,000 new American citizens at more than 260 naturalization ceremonies.