SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Friday, September 17, we recognize newly naturalized citizens of the United States, it’s national citizenship day.
Hundreds of people take the oath to become citizens every year. Arkansas United, an immigration advocacy group in Springdale is hosting a virtual event to honor them.
According to DHS, from January 1, 2021 to June 30, 2021, 866 people have been naturalized in Arkansas. Some of the most common countries of origin are Mexico, El Salvador and India to name a few.
Founder and Executive Director, Mireya Reith says citizenship is at the root of what it means to be American.
She adds the process has its challenges for some immigrants; navigating the paperwork, learning the language, studying and taking the test. That is why the organization is committed to helping folks with the process.
“It is the dream and the vision of our immigrants here. We just think lifting up the journey and the stories of these individuals is important.. To really be able to hear from every corner of the state that it is possible to become a citizen… There are beautiful and wonderful benefits and they are welcomed and encouraged even by their state leaders. They are not alone,” said Reith.
Arkansas United will be hosting a virtual citizenship day celebration, starting at 6 p.m. Friday night.
Fort Smith Mayor George McGill will make a speech to aspiring and new citizens. During the event, you will hear the story of 5 people who recently went through the process and are new citizens.
One of them is Maria Gomez. She says becoming a citizen is a dream come true.
Maria is from El Salvador and has been in the United States for about 20 years, and Arkansas for the last 8 years.
She says she loves this country because of the laws here especially the freedom of religion. She says although the process was tough it was all worth it.
“Thank god everything was good and I passed my interview. I think for everybody it is important because it is the future of the country, the people, everybody,” said Maria.
Maria says she is also excited to exercise her civic duty to vote and make her voice heard, and thanks to Arkansas United she is now registered to vote
Folks will be able to watch via Arkansas United’s Facebook Live.