Swearing in the country's newest citizens; local officials hopeful for ceremony in Willmar in 2018
WILLMAR -- Approximately 20 new citizens will hopefully be able to swear their allegiance to the United States of America in Willmar next spring, as both the Willmar chapter of the League of Women Voters and the Willmar Human Rights Commission ha...
WILLMAR - Approximately 20 new citizens will hopefully be able to swear their allegiance to the United States of America in Willmar next spring, as both the Willmar chapter of the League of Women Voters and the Willmar Human Rights Commission have been working to get a naturalization ceremony scheduled for the city.
"We would sure love to host something like that," said Jan Dahl, League president.
On Thursday, Dahl said the Willmar date has been added to the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota court calendar for April 10, 2018.
"I am really hopeful this will be pulled off," Dahl said.
The courts hold approximately 80 naturalization ceremonies a year, Dahl said. Most of them take place in and around the Twin Cities, but several are held in greater Minnesota, to cut back on the travel time for the new citizens. Naturalization ceremonies are being held in Duluth, Mankato, Fergus Falls and Moorhead this year, along with many in the metro.
The Willmar ceremony will take place at The Barn Theatre. The space is being offered free of charge.
It will be the court's responsibility to find the new citizens who will take part in the ceremony, Dahl said.
"This would be a positive thing," Dahl said.
The naturalization ceremony is the last step for immigrants working to obtain their United States citizenship. At the ceremony they recite the Oath of Allegiance in front of a district judge.
The oath reads: "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."
The citizenship process isn't easy or short. First, the individual seeking naturalization needs to have lived in the United States as a legal resident for three to five years. They then need to apply for naturalization, be fingerprinted and photographed for FBI criminal background checks and attend an interview with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. There is also a $725 fee which needs to be paid.
At the interview, citizenship applicants will need to take the English and civics tests, unless exempt. The application will then be either granted or denied by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
"It takes a lot of work to become a citizen," Dahl said.
One of the reasons why the League wants to bring a ceremony to Willmar is to give the community a chance to actually see their neighbors and friends become citizens.
"Get people together and see what it means to be a citizen," Dahl said.
The ceremony would also be a fitting kick off to the League's voter registration drives that will ramp up in 2018, due to the upcoming midterm elections, Dahl said.
Shelly Huseby, president of the Willmar Human Rights Commission, thinks the naturalization ceremony would be a way to celebrate America as the country people still want to come to and be apart of, along with acknowledging the country's immigrant past.
"We were all them at one time," Huseby said.