Following Independence Day celebrations over the weekend, 10 people, including two FIU students, became citizens at FIU’s first naturalization ceremony on Monday.
“What a great celebration to have it be in July Fourth week,” said Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen ’75 MS ’87. “And it’s important to have it at a place like FIU, because it epitomizes the diversity of the United States, and it’s a good personification for the strength of immigrants and how immigrants have contributed boldly and positively to the greatness our of country.”
At the ceremony, the congresswoman spoke about her own experience as an immigrant from Cuba.
“I know what an important day it was for me when I became a United States citizen, and it changes your life,” she said. “To be part of this great republic, to be part of the greatest experiment in representative democracy is a real high.”
Incoming freshman marketing major Aura Moreno, who took her oath that day alongside fellow student Ednei Estevez, shared the congresswoman’s sentiments about becoming a citizen. Even before she emigrated from Venezuela when she was eight years old, Moreno said she always knew she wanted to become a U.S. citizen because of the opportunities she would have.
“I feel amazing. Now to say that I’m American is a real moment,” she said. “Now so many doors have been opened, especially since I’m starting university.”
Moreno said the fact that she became a citizen right at FIU makes the experience even more meaningful.
“It’s like the two current new worlds that I’m experiencing coming together. FIU, now that I’m part of this family, and now that I’m part of the American family, both coming together,” Moreno said.
President Mark B. Rosenberg said that FIU is about opening opportunities, and he hopes the university can host more naturalization ceremonies in the future.
The ceremony is the culmination of a process that immigrants must undergo to become citizens of the United States, which includes an interview and passing tests in English and civics, and can sometimes take applicants years to complete.
“FIU is going to be an incredible experience for these students, and to become U.S. citizens right here at FIU makes the experience very complete,” President Rosenberg said.
The unveiling of a new replica Statue of Liberty in front of the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs served as backdrop to the ceremony.
“The statue of liberty has always been, and continues to be, a symbol of the best of America, signifying freedom, liberty and human rights for all who sail across oceans and travel across lands to make their homes here in the United States,” said Rebecca Friedman, director of FIU’s European Studies Program and co-director of the Miami-Florida European Union Center of Excellence.
President Rosenberg agreed. “FIU really represents the same thing that the Statue of Liberty does: hope, opportunity, the American dream, hope for the future, improvement, people who love this country, and people who want to get an education to do better for the country.”