BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the U.S. District Court Western District of Arkansas welcomed nearly 100 new citizens during a naturalization ceremony Monday at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Christy Comstock administered the Oath of Allegiance. Congratulatory remarks were provided by numerous members of the community, including previously naturalized citizens.
A total of 98 people from 32 countries are now U.S. citizens. Crystal Bridges hosted the ceremony as part of its “We The People: The Radical Notion of Democracy” exhibit.
“We tried to think of ways we could engage the community in civic values and freedom. We couldn’t think of a more appropriate ceremony than this one today,” said Chief Learning and Engagement Officer for Crystal Bridges, Marissa Reyes.
Reyes is originally from the Philippines. She went through the naturalization process herself. Her ceremony was held in a Chicago courthouse. She said she was grateful so many were able to make this life-changing memory at Crystal Bridges.
“We couldn’t be more excited. We’ve been working towards this for several years,” said Reyes.
One newly inducted citizen, Tala Alsharif, is a new U.S citizen originally from Jordan. She is currently going to college at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. She’s been in the U.S. for 6 years and will be graduating in December.
Some of her goals include: becoming a nurse, eventually becoming an instructor in heart education and making a change in the nursing field. She’s also excited at the opportunity to vote.
Garrett Dolan, a Senior Manager for Tyson Foods, said there are roughly 35,000 Tyson team members who are immigrants. Tyson has an immigration program that supports those team members by paying for schooling, paying fees, offering legal assistance and helping them achieve citizenship.
According to Dolan, it is a long process to become a citizen. It takes team members about 2 to 3 months to find out about the program and 6 to 12 months for the government to approve the application process.
“We coach them and help navigate them throughout the entire program,” said Dolan.
Taofeek Muhammed is a project manager at Tyson. He came to the U.S. as an Arkansas Tech student, got a master’s degree and started a family. On Monday, he finally became a U.S. citizen after about five years of going through the process.
“The immigration process is very tiresome, but I feel like it’s worth it at the end of the day because we finally get to be a part of the greatest country in the world,” said Muhammed.
On Sept. 17, the nation observes Constitution Day and Citizenship Day as part of Constitution Week (Sept. 17 to 23). The commemoration honors both the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787, and an observance that began in 1940 as “I Am an American Day.” Citizenship Day began in 1952, based on a law signed by President Harry Truman, and in 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower proclaimed the first Constitution Week.
Find out more about Crystal Bridges’ new “We The People: The Radical Notion of Democracy” exhibit here.