BILLINGS – Twenty-nine people from 18 countries were welcomed into America at a naturalization ceremony in Billings Thursday. Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is given to a foreign citizen.
Applause filled the courtroom as the new citizens spoke the final words of the Oath of Allegiance. Just like that, 29 people became American citizens. For most, this moment has been years in the making.
“We’ve been waiting for this day since 2015. We got here June 6,” said Earl Coobs, whose wife was being naturalized. “We’ve been waiting for this day since the day we’ve met. For my lovely wife Liwen to become a citizen.”
Smiles could be seen all around the room in the James F. Battin federal courthouse as new citizens were handed their documentation, commemorative flag and remarks from national elected officials.
Only standing room was available in the courtroom. U.S District Judge Timothy J. Cavan told the packed crowd to please cheer and clap. It is not often that happy events like the naturalization ceremony are found within the confines of the federal courtroom, he said.
Every person in the ceremony had a reason to come to the United States. Some come in search of love, like Earl and Liwen Coobs. Others come seeking asylum from their war-torn homeland. Muhammad Majouz hails from Syria, a place that hasn’t seen peace in years. He wants to bring members of his family back to Montana.
“My parents, they are old, and they want to be with their children. I hope the process of immigration will not take [much] time,” said Majouz. “My mom she has health problems. She has a brain tumor. She wants to see me; she wants to be with me. Hopefully, I will be able to get her here and have some life together. That would be awesome.”
Majouz said he has been jumping through red tape for eight years to become an American citizen.
The common thread between the new citizens was a sense of thankfulness.
“It’s a great honor to become a part of this great nation and I’m very proud today. To become a citizen is a great honor,” said Debora Ribeiro. “And I’m very happy and very excited.”
Once completed with the naturalization ceremony, those new citizens were given the opportunity to register to vote.
Reporting by Mitch Lagge for MTN News