New citizens take oath in Faribault County
Thirteen people acquired their United States citizenship at a Naturalization Ceremony held March 19 at the Faribault County Courthouse.
Among those being recognized was Maria Martinez Walker of Winnebago. She is the owner of the El Tio store in Blue Earth.
“I grew up in Mexico City, but came to the United States in 1992,” says Maria. “I lived in Houston, Texas for nine years then moved to Elmore in 2001. What a change that was for me after living in Houston.”
Since 2004, she has lived in Winnebago raising her sons, Isaias, age 9, and Carlos, who is 9 months old.
“I didn’t know how or when it would happen, but I always knew I wanted to be a United States citizen,” says Maria who began her journey to citizenship in 1998 while living in Houston.
“After September 11, it got a lot harder to become a citizen,” says Maria. “The INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) really checked everything about your background,” she explains.
After moving to Minnesota, she continued the extensive and expensive naturalization process in Bloomington. It includes securing lawyers, filling out extensive applications, undergoing medical examinations and biometrics (fingerprinting) and making current all immunizations.
The last step to citizenship for immigrants is testing and an interview. These were held in Sioux Falls explains Maria.
Eleven years and about $10,000 later, she has earned her citizenship.
“One has to be very patient and do a lot of sacrificing to earn this,” says a proud Maria.
“I love my country (Mexico),” says Maria, “but the United States has many more opportunities. I think this is the best country. I want to raise my children here because it is safer, they will get a better education and will have more opportunities.”
The others being honored at the Naturalization Ceremony came from the area communities of Worthington, Butterfield, Kanaranzi and Winnebago. These new citizens came from the countries of Colombia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Guatemala, Laos, Mexico and Thailand.
Federal Magistrate Judge, Jeffery J. Keyes officiated at the program with Immigration Service Officer, Duane Uithoven of Sioux Falls presenting certificates and a flag in recognition of each newly honored citizen.
Keyes told the honorees it was an important and wonderful event in their life. He said this from personal experience, since his adopted daughter from Korea became a citizen in 1982. He says it was one of the proudest moments in his life.
“I know how long and difficult a journey you have had,” says Judge Keyes.
“You came to make a new life for yourself, your children and grandchildren. You came because you had a passion,” he adds.
“I know you have struggled and had many hardships in this journey,” says Judge Keyes. Among this is having to renounce the country and government in which you were born. But we know you will always have your loyalty and love for your heritage, forefathers and country. Now I want you also to hold allegiance to the United States.“
Keyes says he feels calling the United States a ‘melting pot’ is not really accurate.
“Our country is more like a patchwork quilt where people are brought together to form a new unity making our country stronger than ever.” Judge Keyes then spoke of the recent inaugural address by President Obama who spoke of our “patchwork heritage as being a strength and not a weakness.“
He explained the importance of this country’s great freedoms and the bedrock of what the new citizens have striven for. They include freedom of speech, the right to petition the government, practice religion, vote and a freedom of thought.
He also says there are responsibilities of citizenship. They include voting, the freedom to practice one’s religion and the responsibility of showing tolerance to others.
“I am thrilled to call you fellow citizens,” concludes Keyes in his remarks to the 13 newly recognized United States citizens.