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Thousands Become Citizens at Los Angeles Naturalization Ceremony

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Catherine E. Bauer addresses soon-to-be citizens at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

As dawn broke on September 22, 2016, thousands of people, along with their families and friends, gathered in the Los Angeles Convention Center to become United States citizens. Judges Sandra R. Klein and Catherine E. Bauer of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California were among those administering the oath of allegiance to the new citizens.

Not only was the ceremony memorable for the newcomers and their families and friends, but it was also part of a national Constitution and Citizenship Day celebration. More than 75 years ago Congress created “I Am an American Day,” to recognize “all who, by coming of age or naturalization, have attained the status of citizenship,” and to highlight “the privileges and responsibilities of being an American citizen.” United States Statutes at Large, 76 Cong. Ch. 183, 54 Stat. 178 (1940).

The celebration is now called Constitution and Citizenship Day and is observed in September each year to commemorate the formation and signing of the Constitution on September 17, 1787. 36 U.S.C. § 106 (2004). In fact, the Constitution and citizenship are so important to our nation, we now celebrate for an entire week.

During her remarks to some 4,140 newcomers, Judge Klein noted that, in signing the Constitution, our founding fathers changed the course of history. Although America now spans an entire continent and life today is much different from what our founders could have ever imagined, the Constitution continues to adapt and endure. And it is because of the Constitution that everyone sworn in on September 22, 2016, will experience the many freedoms enjoyed by all American citizens.

Judge Sandra R. Klein, above far left, poses for photos with 11 new citizens who are serving in the U.S. armed forces. Judge Klein, at left, administers the oath of allegiance to new citizens

at the Los Angeles naturalization ceremony.

Judge Klein’s externs, Christina Gasparian and Kristin Haule, shared their impressions of the event below.

Christina Gasparian:

I was awestruck from the moment that I stepped into the convention center, which was filled with a cacophony of sounds. There were thousands of people from diverse backgrounds, with different stories, achievements, and struggles. I marveled that all these proud individuals, despite their differences, had a unified goal of becoming a United States citizen. I had goosebumps throughout the entire ceremony as I realized how blessed I am to live in such a diverse country, where being an American citizen is not just crafted on paper but instilled within each and every individual.

Attending the ceremony was extremely gratifying because I had the opportunity to witness 4,140 individuals fulfill their dreams. It also gave me new insights into my family’s journey to American citizenship. My parents emigrated from Armenia in the 1980s. I developed a greater understanding and appreciation for the challenges my parents faced to become U.S. citizens so that they could create a stable life for my brother and me.

I have newfound respect for naturalized citizens who strive for something that I have always taken for granted. As Judge Klein stated during her remarks, “Those of us who were born in this country very often take the privilege of citizenship for granted.” This moving experience will stay with me forever and will always remind me of how privileged I am to be an American citizen.

Kristin Haule:

Observing the ceremony was a great reminder that the U.S. is a nation of immigrants. It was truly heartwarming to watch the 4,140 applicants from 126 different countries take the oath of allegiance. Because my family went through the naturalization process a few generations ago, I sometimes take for granted the many amazing privileges of citizenship. But witnessing this ceremony was a wonderful reminder of just how great this country is and how hard people work to become citizens. This is especially true for the 11 military service members who were sworn in. They are extraordinary men and women who risked their lives to defend this country before they were even granted citizenship.

Judge Klein highlighted the many privileges of being an American citizen. She noted that American citizens enjoy freedom of religion and in this country, a person cannot be persecuted or imprisoned simply for practicing their faith or religion.

Another privilege Judge Klein mentioned is the freedom of speech and the right to have an opinion, to voice that opinion and to be heard, even if others disagree. Judge Klein remarked that one of our greatest privileges is the right to vote, to elect leaders and to actively participate in our democracy. As Americans, we have the great privilege to live in a free, democratic society. Judge Klein highlighted that voting is the right that makes us free.

Judge Klein concluded her remarks by quoting our sixth president, John Quincy Adams: “You will never know how much it cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.” She urged the new citizens to make good use of the freedoms they will enjoy as United States citizens and to help look out for our country.

After, the district director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services addressed the new citizens. And there was not a dry eye in the house as the Bel Canto Choir from Huntington Middle School sang the National Anthem. The sense of patriotism and camaraderie was palpable.

Those who entered came from than 100 different countries, but by the end of the ceremony, they were all citizens of the same country. Our diversity is what makes us such a great nation, and our common citizenship unites us.

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