24 people from different backgrounds, races, religions and 16 different countries across the world had one thing in common this past Thursday. They all swore a naturalization oath and became United States citizens.
Judge Robert Holter said he has performed many of these ceremonies over the years. He said, “This is a culmination of the efforts of these people to come citizens. They’ve been through a series of training, schools, various exercises, and they finally come to court.”
Many of these people have been in the U.S. for several years.
Adam Shaw, originally from New Zealand, has been in the country the past nine years.
“I was always very intrigued by American history and American politics,” Adam said. “I didn’t realize how diverse America was. It’s really a collection of 50 different states, all a little different from each other.”
Some people came to America through their interest for the country itself, like Adam. Others immigrated because of their significant other or work.
Allison Begley came to Montana over 16 years ago from Canada to work for the state as a biologist. She met her husband, got married, had children and finally felt that she had to make it more official with citizenship. She is most looking forward to being more of an advocate.
She said, “I’ve not had a voice of my own for the place where I live for a long time, and I’m looking forward to a chance to be able to do that.”
Sylvia Burris, who came to America after meeting her husband in Uganda, is also very excited to have a voice in America.
“I look forward to voting and to participate in the elections,” she said. “I’m pretty excited about the presidential election that is coming.”
Veronique Ludwick, originally from France, met her husband while she was teaching in Asia. Veronique is most excited for expanding her heritage in America.
She said, “Being a French citizen and an American citizen, I can keep both nationalities now, so it’s really a privilege. I think it will help me get my roots deeper here. It’s a very special country and I love its people and its heritage is amazing.”
All four new citizens are looking forward to their future in their new country.
Sylvia said, “I feel blessed that I get to be a part of this great nation and to be able to raise my kids here.”
Veronique said, “I’ve lived in a fair amount of countries around the world and this country has a lot of privileges very few people have, so we need to cherish it and make sure to make the most of it.”
“Really excited to be here, really happy to be an American citizen finally,” Adam said. “Feels really unique to be in such a serious courtroom like this for such a good reason.”
Judge Robert Holter feels the same way.
He said, “It’s such a joy to run this kind of a proceeding for a judge because most of the things that happen in a court run are not real happy and this is just the opposite, this is a really happy day.”
There are only two naturalization ceremonies in Great Falls throughout the year.
- Click here to more about the naturalization process in the U.S.
- Click here to access U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Online Tools
Reporting by Kasey Herman