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71 welcomed as new Americans
• Six from Ceres take oath to become U.S. citizens
Cayetano Hernandez
Cayetano Hernandez of Ceres takes the oath of allegiance to the United States during a Salida ceremony conducted by officers of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Cayetano Acevedo Hernandez of Ceres will count Friday as a milestone to remember the rest of his life. It was the day he became a U.S. citizen at a mass ceremony held for 70 other immigrants.

Conducted by officers of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Fresno and Sacramento field offices, the ceremony at the Salida Library marked the end of a long process over many years for the Mexican native who wants to be an American.  

“It’s a big day,” said Hernandez, who came into the United States over 20 years ago. “I had to request the day off but I may go back to work.” 

The Ceres man works for the WIC program in Stanislaus County.

“I’ve thought about it and I waited too long. I should have done this a while back ago. Work and family.”

Hernandez said the process was simple enough but it required a lot of studying “day and night” to meet naturalization requirements. Those include being able to speak, read, write and understand English, be knowledgeable of U.S. government and history, demonstrate attachment to the principles of the Constitution.

Also becoming a U.S. citizen was Rita Babajan, an immigrant from Iraq who has been living in Ceres with a green card. Four others from Ceres participated and one from Hughson were among the new citizens who took an oath of allegiance to their new country.

Babajan has been in the United States about five years, seeking out opportunities and freedom that she didn’t have in her native country.

Nationalities represented in the ceremony included Mexico (27 immigrants), India (9), Iran (9), Philippines (7), Iraq (4), and Portugal, China, Cambodia, Afghanistan and England (one apiece).

As they raised to their feet and held up a hand, the 71 immigrants repeated the oath of allegiance to the United States administered from Acting Sacramento Field Officer Director Rebecca Galindo.

Delivering the keynote speech was Garth Stapley, an editor for the Modesto Bee. Salida librarian Jessica Geiss issued a welcome and provided information on library services.

Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is conferred upon foreign citizens or nationals who have fulfilled the requirements established by Congress. After naturalization, foreign-born citizens enjoy nearly all the benefits, rights and responsibilities that the Constitution gives to native-born U.S. citizens.

To be naturalized one must be at least 18 years of age, a lawful permanent resident (green card holder), have resided in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least five years, physically present in the United States for at least 30 months, of good moral character, and willing and able to take the Oath of Allegiance.

Rita Babajan
Rita Babajan of Ceres raises her hand to take the oath of allegiance to become an American citizen during a Thursday morniing naturalization ceremony held at the Salida Library. Babajan came to the United States from Iraq. - photo by Jeff Benziger