On Thursday, immigrants from 28 countries became U.S. citizens during a ceremony in Hillsboro.

U.S. Naturalization Ceremony

The crowd that packed the upstairs of the Hillsboro Brookwood Library on Thursday, April 11, came from all over the world.

Some from Australia, others came from Nepal, Trinidad and Tobago or El Salvador. Familes in the audiences spoke Russian and Chinese. But they all had one thing in common.

On Thursday, 49 people from across the Portland area became U.S. citizens, taking their oaths of allegiance during a naturalization ceremony held at the Hillsboro library in front of their friends and family.

"You join a long legacy of Americans who have contributed to the vibrancy and success of this country," said Anya Ronshaugen, acting field office director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "As part of this special legacy, like the millions of immigrants who have come before you, you have an opportunity to enrich this country through your contributions to civic society, business, culture and your community. You will be part of writing the next great chapter of our American story. The United States welcomes you."

In total, Thursday's celebration involved people from 28 different countries.

For many of the new citizens, Thursday's swearing in ceremony was the culmination of years of dreaming.

"This was one of the most memorable moments of my life," said Krishna Banerjee, 42, of Vancouver, Wash., who took her oath of allegiance in Hillsboro on Thursday.

Banerjee grew up in India and moved to the United States 19 years ago. She said America has offered her and her family opportunities she could never have had back home.

"I'm taking a kickboxing class," she said. "I'd never be able to do that in India. Over here I am doing that. I am a married mother of a 9-year-old, I have a full time job. I'm loving it. I can basically be me, here."

The library has held citizen naturalization ceremonies in 2017. Stephanie Chase, director of the Hillsboro Library, said it was the perfect place to hold these citizenship ceremonies.

"In Hillsboro, the library prides itself not only on being a trusted resource for information but also a welcoming space for everyone in the community," she said. "Here, in this organization dedicated to those principles, you can take your oath of citizenship. This is a special and symbolic moment."

Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway brought voter registration forms for the new citizens. Voting, Callaway said, was the most important way citizens can effect change in their communities.

"The richest person, the most powerful person and the smartest person each only get one vote, just like you and me," Callaway said. "Make sure your voice is heard by making sure you vote. It's your privilege, but it's also your responsibility."

Hillsboro leaders have long touted the city's diversity. Home to international companies include Intel, the city has attracted residents from all over the globe. The city is 22% Latino, and nearly 11% of city residents come from Asian countries. About 29% of city residents speak a different language at home than English.

Callaway said of the 25 members of the city's Youth Advisory Council, about 17 had family members who had become naturalized citizens.

Callaway said that showed Hillsboro's commitment to accepting everyone, from all walks of life.

"You have all worked so hard to get here," Callaway told the crowd. "You each have a unique story and you each are on a unique journey. One thing you all have in common is your perseverance, your hard work, and your resilience, which has led you to this moment."

The preamble to the Constitution talks about forming a more perfect union, Callaway said.

"I recognize that we're not a perfect country. But because of your commitment, intelligence allegiance and support of our country we are indeed a more perfect union."

Banerjee said her daughter is growing up in a country where she can be whatever she wants to be. "That's what this country is all about," Banerjee said. "You can start your life, at any age, whatever your heart desires. I tell my daughter, 'The greatest gift we could give to you is having you born here in America.'"

By Geoff Pursinger and Christopher Oertell
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