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Fourth Of July Welcomes New U.S. Citizens In Salinas And Beyond

Taking the oath of citizenship is a Fourth of July tradition across the country.  This holiday season about 14,000 immigrants will become American citizens, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

One ceremony took place Tuesday in Salinas.   

Immigrants from 20 different countries, including China, Russia and Fiji, packed Steinbeck Hall at Hartnell Community College.

Along with their supporters and local dignitaries, they gave each country of origin a round of applause. 

Congressman Jimmy Panetta gave the keynote address.  “We do not expect you to stop loving your nation of origin. It's okay to root for your team during the World Cup,” he told the crowd. 

77 people took the Oath of Allegiance to become American citizens during the ceremony.

“The oath that you just took it is not to a bloodline or a body of land. That oath is to a body of principles, a devotion to a set of demanding and common ideals that are based the human spirit for liberty and justice. That is the foundation of this great enterprise we call the United States of America,” said Congressman Panetta.

Eduardo Gonzales is from Mexico.  He says he was granted political asylum about seven years ago for facing persecution as a member of the LGBT community.  It’s changed his life.

“I study and I got a contractor's license. I opened my own business. And I just purchased a home two months ago. I did all that by being a legal resident,” said Gonzales.

Maria Veronica Serratos Valdivia grew up in Santa Cruz.  She’s now a grad student studying to become a physician's assistant.  She says becoming U.S. citizen puts her mind at ease.

“It takes away the fear factor, right. The fear that at some point everything that you've worked for can be stripped away,” said Serratos Valdivia.

Karin Cowley is from Germany.   She’s glad to finally share citizenship with her American husband and their two children.  She’s also glad to have the right to vote.

“I don’t want to just live here and let things happen.  I would like to actively pursue change in this country,” said Cowley.

Across the country, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will hold 175 naturalization ceremonies around Independence Day.  They began on June 28th and will continue through July 10th.

Krista joined KAZU in 2007. She is an award winning journalist with more than a decade of broadcast experience. Her stories have won regional Edward R. Murrow Awards and honors from the Northern California Radio and Television News Directors Association. Prior to working at KAZU, Krista reported in Sacramento for Capital Public Radio and at television stations in Iowa. Like KAZU listeners, Krista appreciates the in-depth, long form stories that are unique to public radio. She's pleased to continue that tradition in the Monterey Bay Area.