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Recently Naturalized U.S. Citizens Feel a Sense of 'Freedom'

Teran Powell
Applicants for U.S. citizenship take the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America.

This year’s Independence Day may have a new meaning for some state residents. That’s because hundreds of Wisconsinites recently became American citizens.

Today, they’ll be celebrating their first 4th of July holiday as such.

I attended the swearing in ceremony for soon-to-be U.S. citizens a few weeks ago, at the Peck Pavilion at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts in Milwaukee. It was held in conjunction with Flag Day.

Bob Curry delivered the keynote address to a full house. “Every nation in the world admits immigration, but what’s different here in America is immigrants is America,” he said.

Curry is the president of DryHooch, a nonprofit that helps veterans and their families with a variety of reintegration issues.

In the audience, hundreds of people -- supported by their friends and family -- celebrated becoming American citizens.

“That’s what makes America powerful, is that we can take talent and understanding and knowledge from people in different parts of the world and bring them together into one place to make it better for all of us.”

Credit Teran Powell
The National Guard Color Guard present the flags.

The Color Guard opened the ceremony, marching onstage with the American and Wisconsin flags, and the Latino Strings followed with a performance of the National Anthem.

People emigrated from a host of countries, including Chile, Mexico, Ethiopia, Iran, Germany and Ghana.

Tenzin Dasal’s family is originally from Tibet – she and her mother were naturalized at the same time. Dasal is 22, and her family has been in the U.S. for about 20 years.

She says there was never a moment she didn’t feel American, since she’s been here since she was a child, but she says she knows the moment is special for her parents.

Credit Teran Powell
Tenzin Dasal (L) and her mother.

“Moving here was really important for my family so we could have a better life where we have all this freedom, we can do whatever we want, and we can feel safe, and we can love who we love and do what we want with our lives without being in fear,” she said.

Dasal says becoming an American citizen is something she always knew she would accomplish.

Gina Jones also celebrated becoming a citizen with her family. She’s from Kenya and has been in the U.S. for more than 20 years.

Jones says now that she has her certificate of citizenship, she feels relieved.

“I’m just happy. Happy that I’m an American now. It gives you that sense of security and joy and pride. And this is home for me. I’ve lived here over 24, 25 years and this has been home to me for half my life. Well, you know, although I only 24.”

Jones was one of 140 people, from 54 different countries, who became American citizens that day.

Teran is WUWM's race & ethnicity reporter.
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