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September 24, 2017

New Americans sworn in at naturalization ceremony in Little Rock; citizenship still far off for 1 woman


New Americans sworn in at naturalization ceremony in Little Rock; citizenship still far off for 1 woman

After a naturalization ceremony in a federal courtroom in Little Rock Friday, a group of new citizens waited to take…


After a naturalization ceremony in a federal courtroom in Little Rock Friday, a group of new citizens waited to take pictures with U.S. Rep. French Hill.

“I hope the nervousness is over now,” he told the room of immigrants, pausing a moment for the laughter that followed. “It is a momentous occasion, and I know how hard you worked for it.”

During the ceremony, about 30 immigrants walked to the front of the court room to say their names and counties. Returning to their seats, some stared at the new certificates in their hands.

For at least one person in the room, that possibility still seemed far away.

Off to the side, Lilian Orellana waited beside her sister-in-law for the new citizens to finish taking their photos.

She went to the ceremony for her nephew, who had just earned his citizenship, but she found herself waiting to talk to Hill, a Republican from Little Rock, about her own status.

Since leaving Guatemala, each of Orellana’s family members have earned their citizenship.

After Friday’s ceremony, the 33-year-old is the only one in her family who remains uncertain of her status.

They came to the country on visas. The process is different for Orellana, who crossed the border illegally at 15. She is one of 800,000 young adults allowed to stay in the United States under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, an Obama-era program that could end as early as March.

President Donald J. Trump has questioned the legality of the executive order that Obama issued creating the status in 2012.

After the new citizens left the Little Rock courtroom Friday, Hill echoed the president’s words.

“District courts believe Obama went beyond the scope of what is legal,” he said. “I support Congress passing laws.”

Hill added that the people who had gained their citizenship that day had done so legally, and that their commitment to a difficult process could not be ignored.

Before Friday, Orellana had not seen a naturalization ceremony. When her sister became a citizen in 2011, she did not have an identification card to show the guards outside the courtroom and was unable to attend.

Watching Friday’s ceremony, she imagined what it would be like to walk up, say her name and take one of the miniature flags each new citizen received with their certificate.

She still remembers the day she arrived in Michigan and went to Pizza Hut for the first time.

“The way the cheese stretched,” recalled Orellana, who as a youth in Guatemala farmed corn and paid neighbors 25 cents to watch TV. “It was just like the commercials.”

Orellana still orders the pizzas to share with her 8-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son.

“I want them to grow up with that,” she said. “But if I go, they go too.”

After all the citizens had finished taking their photos, Orellana approached Hill.

“I went to college,” she said, stopping a moment to collect herself. “And I want to be an American citizen.”

She could no longer hold back the tears.

“I understand that,” Hill said, hugging her. “We’re going to work it out.”


Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette New Americans sworn in at naturalization ceremony in Little Rock; citizenship still far off for 1 woman

New Americans sworn in at naturalization ceremony in Little Rock; citizenship still far off for 1 woman

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