SEASIDE, Calif. - During an Independence Day-themed naturalization ceremony at California State University, Monterey Bay on Monday, 150 people from 19 different nations became U.S. citizens.
Central Coast Rep. Jimmy Panetta delivered the keynote speech where, in which he talked about the importance of immigration.
“What you are seeing today is people from all across the world that have come here and are going to raise their hand and take an oath to our common ideals, and that is special,” Panetta told KION’s Paul Dudley before the ceremony. “Being the grandson of immigrants, being raised on the Central Coast, I understand how important immigration is, not only to our community, not only to our economy, but to our country.”
The naturalization ceremony comes as a particularly proud and emotional moment for Jenny Ng and her husband, Derek Choo, who immigrated here from Malaysia nearly 17 years ago.
“It (the United States) has given us so much, our lives, our livelihood -- and we believe in the values of the country and so I think it’s time for us to give back,” said Choo.
“I want to solidify my love, my commitment, my dedication to this country, to the flag and to what this country stands for,” said Ng.
Though lately there has been what many consider to be anti-immigration rhetoric coming from Washington, D.C., Panetta says he is going to continue to work on immigration reform. The freshman congressman called it one of his top three goals, with the other two relating to healthcare and agriculture.
“It feels like something we should do and continue to do,” said Panetta, “Accept people who are willing to come to this country and contribute.”
Several of the new citizens that spoke with KION say they feel safer and more secure now. Feelings that were echoed by 22-year-old Eric Sanchez, who immigrated from Mexico.
“You didn’t know what was going to happen so I said, ‘I need to get this done before anything bad actually happens,' so that was definitely what persuaded me to do it,” said Sanchez.
The pathway to citizenship is not easy. For most, it takes time, patience, money and diligent work.
“It was so hard for me,” said Veronica Carrasco, a new U.S. citizen. “I was studying all day, at my work and at my house, but I passed so I am happy.”
For new Americans such as Ng and Choo, it was all worth it.
“All good things you have to wait for,” said Ng. “For great things, especially.”
Out of the nations represented at the ceremony, the majority, 111 people, immigrated from Mexico.