Porter College hosts ceremony for 94 newly naturalized U.S. citizens

new citizens take the oath
More than 90 newly naturalized citizens swear their allegiance to the United States during a ceremony at Porter College Wednesday. (Photos by Guy Lasnier)
Citizenship officer sorts new citizens identity cards
An officer from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services office prepares naturalization cards for new citizens.
Woman sings the national anthem
Angela Tirado, a native of Puerto Rico, sings the Star Spangled Banner at the beginning of the ceremony.

Ninety-four new Americans were sworn in during citizenship ceremonies held Wednesday at Porter College on the UC Santa Cruz campus.

The new citizens come from 25 different countries; the largest group, from Mexico, let out a big cheer when asked to stand alongside natives of other countries during a nation-by-nation roll call from Afghanistan to Vietnam.

The United States welcomes more immigrants than any other nation, said Vic Karazjia, an immigration officer with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, who served as master of ceremonies. "This is a country founded by immigrants and continues to be made strong by immigrants," he said.

"This is a momentous decision," said Alison Galloway, the UC Santa Cruz campus provost and executive vice chancellor, as she welcomed and congratulated the new citizens. Galloway recalled taking part in a similar ceremony about 20 years ago after living in this country for many years. She had emigrated as a small child.

She remembered "dedicating part of myself to the future of this country" when she took the oath of U.S. citizenship.

The naturalization ceremony at Porter was one of more than 95 taking place across the country from June 30 to July 5 as the USCIS swears in approximately 7,800 new U.S. citizens as part of its annual Independence Day celebration.

Taking part at the UC Santa Cruz event were residents of the greater Monterey Bay Area, including Salinas, Seaside, Watsonville, and Santa Cruz.

U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, who has represented the region in the Congress for 20 years, told the new citizens they have an opportunity and responsibility to participate in the running of their new country. They can even run for political office, he said, to make changes. All they have to do is "get more votes than the other guy," he said.

Ryan Coonerty, the former Santa Cruz City Councilmember and mayor, and incoming county supervisor, brought his UC Santa Cruz class "Law and Democracy" to witness the ceremony. The class is in the legal studies concentration of the politics department.