Eighty-Four Young People Receive Citizenship Certificates at Caltech in a Patriotic Ceremony

USCIS Los Angeles District Director Susan M. Curda addresses the audienceStudents and their families excitedly gathered outside Caltech\'s Beckman Auditorium before receiving their citizenship certificates.Raul Gomez (right) with sister Sonya Duarte (center) and mother Claudia Gomez. Raul wants to exercise his rights as a voter in the next presidential elections.The Omole family came from Nigeria to find a better life here in the U.S. Two of them received citizenship certificates at the ceremony.Dr. Morteza Gharib, Vice Provost of Caltech and The Hans W. Liepmann Professor of Aeronautics and Bio-Inspired Engineering welcomed the students to the U.S. and shared about his own naturalization 28 years ago.Brothers Peeranat and Purinat Suralphirom from Thailand were dragged to the ceremony by their mother Annie who wanted her boys to be raised in a country with true freedom.Wendy Bonilla of El Salvador is so thankful for her families hard work to become U.S. citizens so that she can go to medical school here.Yong Wu and Chen Yin Wu from China.Oath of Allegiance

Story and Photography by RACHEL YOUNG

5:13 pm | August 26, 2015


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) presented U.S. citizenship certificates to 84 mostly high school-age young people on Wednesday during a ceremony at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

This patriotic ceremony – a citizenship ceremony, rather than a naturalization ceremony – recognized young people who obtained citizenship through their parents. Some were adopted by U.S. citizen parents; others derived citizenship when their immigrant parents became naturalized citizens through the three to five year process.

USCIS Los Angeles District Director Susan M. Curda led the 14- to 18 year-olds from 29 countries in saying the Oath of Allegiance. The Oath renounced fidelity to any foreign state and declared they would each perform work of national importance.

“This is something that is not a requirement, but we do this because it’s a very special occasion, it’s a very important day for these kids and we think it’s something we need to celebrate. It’s also the end of the journey for their parents and something the parents worked very hard to provide for their children,” Curda said.

A majority of the youth were from the Philippines, Mexico, and China. The Omole family came from Nigeria to find a better life in the U.S. Another family came from Thailand.

“I’m really excited because now I can study here and do my life here. It’s a great opportunity,” Wendy Bonilla said. Bonilla came from El Salvador with her family five years ago and wants to study medicine.

Sixteen year-old Raul Gomez from Guatamala said it was difficult for his parents to get him to the U.S., especially with the “big mess” of trying to get residency.

“What’s the most exciting is being able to vote. Next year is going to be the election, I finally have the decision to choose and to be able to be a part of those people who get to choose who is our next leader,” Gomez said, “I really appreciate my parents have worked so hard bringing me to where I am right now.”

The parents have waited their time, put in petitions, paid fee, studied for the tests. Children under 18 automatically derive citizenship from their parents.

“It’s the biggest gift that these children get, citizenship from their parents,” Public Affairs officer Claire Nicholson said.

Most of those at this event are at the point in their lives where they may be considering college. The event was held at Caltech for the first time to put an emphasis on education on the momentous day, according to Nicholson.

Naturalized U.S. citizen and Caltech Vice Provost Morteza Gharib, the Hans W. Liepmann Professor of Aeronautics and Professor of Bio-Inspired Engineering gave opening remarks encouraging the youth to follow their dreams as he did.

His contributions to a wide array of research topics range from the fundamental analysis of biological flows to the development of bio-inspired medical devices, to advanced flow visualization techniques. He shared that 28 years ago he became a naturalized citizen and he found a home at Cal Tech where there are students and faculty from more than 80 countries.

“At Caltech we search the globe, everywhere for the very best people with the very best ideas and talents, ideas we think will help to shape our world. We know people from different places help to bring different perspectives and that’s what makes the best science possible. I’m happy to be here to welcome all of you,” Gharib said.

The youth received a video message from the President welcoming them into the U.S. and then joined in singing the National Anthem.

USCIS encourages new citizens and their families and friends to share ceremony experiences and photos on social media using the hashtag #newUScitizen.

USCIS is the federal agency which oversees lawful immigration to the United States. USCIS District 23 Los Angeles covers the seven counties of Los Angeles including: Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo.