As Karen Salamanca drove to Greeley on Friday morning, she once again reflected on why she wanted to be an American citizen.
Salamanca, a 32-year-old man born in Colombia and now living in Longmont, was among 35 people who became citizens at a naturalization ceremony from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at the Centennial Village Museum. .
Salamanca has been in the United States for 10 years. She lived in Boulder for a while, moved to Florida, and returned to Colorado on her own with the end of a marriage because she loves living here.
She first came to the United States on an exchange visa, which are nonimmigrant visas for people eligible to participate in visitor exchange programs, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Bureau of Consular Affairs. US state. Salamanca met her ex-husband while she was on the visa, and she faced challenges both in marriage and in the “time-consuming” residency stage process.
Salamanca attended the outdoor ceremony alone.
“It’s a way of being reborn,” she said of citizenship. “I feel like I’m starting over. There were a lot of things I was going through. The whole process, the tears, the struggles.
The citizen applicants came from 12 countries including Burma, Canada, Italy, Mexico, Somalia, the United Kingdom and Vietnam. They now live in northern Colorado communities from Ault to Burgdorf, Evans, Firestone, Greeley, Johnstown, Lochbuie, Milliken, Pierce, Platteville and Windsor.
Naturalization is how a person who was not born in the United States voluntarily becomes a citizen. The process typically takes about a year and includes: an application, a $640 fee which can be reduced to $320 based on income eligibility, and an interview.
For more information on navigating the immigration process, refer to these five tools available on the USCIS website at uscis.gov:
- Ask Emma, our online virtual assistant who can answer questions in English and Spanish and guide you to information on our website. If Emma can’t answer your question, she can connect you to a live chat with an agent.
- Explore your options. Answer a few questions so that uscis.gov can introduce you to immigration options for which you may be eligible.
- Naturalization eligibility tool. If you are considering applying for citizenship, answer a few questions using this tool to see if you qualify.
- Create an online account. Creating a free online account with USCIS allows you to file online, track your case, submit documents, and ask questions about your case.
- Accurately calculate the fees due on your petition or application using the fee calculator. They will ask questions to help determine your fees. This calculator will always have the most up-to-date fee information.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) partners with the High Plains Library District for Greeley’s naturalization ceremony, and the organizations have collaborated on the event for at least seven years, according to Deborah Cannon, specialist of USCIS Public Affairs.
Cannon wrote in an email that the US agency recently renewed its partnership agreement with the Institute of Museum and Library Services to promote naturalization opportunities for immigrants seeking or eligible for US citizenship. Cannon said the institute found that more than 55% of New Americans use a public library at least once a week.
“IMLS said libraries are a trusted environment with resources and community connections that can facilitate the path to full participation in American society,” Cannon wrote.
The agency, with its local office in Centennial, conducts naturalization ceremonies at national parks, schools, the Denver History Museum and other historic locations.
The approximately 45-minute ceremony featured remarks from local, state and national officials, or their representatives, as was the case for US Senator John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet and US Representative Ken Buck – all of whom sent aids in delivering a message. .
Greeley Town Council was represented by Johnny Olson and Tommy Butler, with Butler giving a short speech. State Representative Mary Young was scheduled to attend, but did not attend due to illness. Young sent her husband, state treasurer Dave Young, who is running for office this fall.
Governor Jared Polis, also a candidate for re-election, addressed those attending the ceremony through a video message. Buck, representing the reconfigured 4th congressional district, won a Republican primary earlier this week and will face Ike McCorkle in the fall general election. Although Bennet missed the naturalization ceremony, it was announced that he would be in Greeley for the July 4 parade on Monday.
A common theme communicated to new citizens by elected officials, as well as articulated by High Plains Library District Executive Director Matthew Hortt, was to encourage them to vote. And not only to vote, but to get involved in their communities and be informed of the processes.
“Through your experience, I know you’ve developed your own voice,” Hortt said. “I encourage you to share it, to be active and to vote.”
The right to vote is the number one reason on the USCIS website why an individual should consider US citizenship. Only citizens can vote in federal elections, the website says. Most states also limit the right to vote in most elections to US citizens.
A resident of Windsor, Luanne Kappel has lived in the United States for over 30 years. Born in Zambia, Kappel grew up in South Africa and held British nationality although she never lived there. For this reason, she considers herself “a citizen of the world”.
She is a graduate of Colorado State and the University of Colorado. From CU, Kappel earned a nursing degree. She is a critical care nurse at UCHealth Greeley Hospital. Kappel and her husband, Brad, have been married for nearly 31 years.
Brad Kappel and others wore matching red, white and blue tie-dye t-shirts at Friday’s ceremony in support of Luanne, who decided to become a citizen because she wanted the right to vote. Kappel said she also values the right to free speech to express her opinion.
“I think what I love the most is the right to vote,” Kappel said, adding that tumultuous times and political divisions have not prompted her to reconsider citizenship. “It’s not a good time. But, part of democracy is that it’s messy and it’s meant to be messy.