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Local ceremony grants citizenship in time for Independence Day
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A newly naturalized citizen poses with Congressman Jeff Denham at the Special Naturalization Ceremony at Modesto Junior College on Tuesday, July 1.

This past Fourth of July marked the 238th year of the United States of America's independence but for many locals the holiday also marked their first national holiday as an American citizen.

Tuesday morning 101 newly naturalized citizens gathered at the Modesto Junior College Performing and Media Arts Center to undergo the final step in the long and often difficult process of becoming an American citizen. A diverse group of individuals hailing from 17 different countries from Cambodia to Columbia, were represented as the group collectively chanted the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and received their certificates marking their newfound citizenship.

"We have a large immigrant population locally so it's important that we have these ceremonies to recognize this new group of citizens that are going to be sharing in the liberties that we all share," said Congressman Jeff Denham (R-Turlock). "I hope they walk away from this event remembering the true patriotism that we as Americans have."

Denham served as the keynote speaker but also held an instrumental role in bringing the ceremony to the Ceres area for the first time as the ceremonies are typically only held in Fresno or Sacramento. As someone who helped his own father-in-law study for the citizenship test, Denham knows firsthand how meaningful it is for the attendees to celebrate the instrumental ceremony with dignitaries and family members present. A recorded video message from President Barack Obama was also played to encourage the new citizens to not only celebrate their new status but to also become active participants in American culture.

"I ask that you use your freedom and your talents to enrich our nation and the world," said Obama.