Immigrants Get Citizenship on July 4

ByABC News
July 4, 2000, 7:25 PM

July 4 -- Peruvian immigrant George Bavanco has waited more than six years for this particular Fourth of July.

I called Immigration almost every single day for too many years, Bavanco says.

Today, those calls have been answered.

Bavanco was among 41 immigrants from 40 countries who took the oath of allegiance today on the grounds of the Freedom Forum in Arlington, Va., swearing to support and defend the constitution and laws of the United States of America and becoming a U.S. citizen.

So was biologist Lucy Songgilbart, who immigrated from China.This is a wonderful day and I love this country, she said, laughing. I am very happy to be here.

A Long Process

For most, the ceremony is the last step in a lengthy naturalization process. New immigrants must prove their knowledge of American government and of spoken English, and many have to wait for months or even years for the Immigration and Naturalization Service to process their paperwork.

This is very special. All my other encounters have been in dingy offices with gruff immigration officers, said Zohra Siddiqui, 58, who took the oath on the steps of Thomas Jeffersons stately house at Monticello, Va.

Siddiqui, a former boys school principal, said she came to the United States from Pakistan eight years ago to be closer to her son and daughter. She was among 84 people from 27 countries who were sworn in as citizens at Monticello today.

The annual ceremony marks not only the signing of the Declaration of Independence, written by Jefferson, but also his death on July 4, 1826.

Mixed Feelings

Many of the new citizens said they came here to findprofessional opportunities that they couldnt find elsewhere.Others, like Kannan Selvaratnam, 30, were looking for peace.

Today is extraordinary, said Selvaratnam, who fled Sri Lankain 1983 when ethnic fighting destroyed his village. Selvaratnam,who works at a New York advertising agency, said his familyscattered to different countries for safety.