At naturalization ceremony, immigrants celebrate ‘beginning of a new life’ for Independence Day

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July 5, 2022 - 9:15 AM

Ming Zhang, an Overland Park resident, made her naturalization official during a special ceremony for 47 immigrants in honor of Independence Day. (Margaret Mellott/Kansas Reflector)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — In the nearly 14 years she’s been in the U.S., Ming Zhang has completed her law degree, started a family and moved to Kansas.

A day before Independence Day, she celebrated her naturalization alongside 46 other new citizens.

Zhang, an Overland Park resident, gave her Oath of Citizenship outside the Children’s Mercy Park field in Kansas City, Kansas, as a part of a special effort by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to welcome new citizens across the country during the first week of July.

“I just really love the freedom here,” Zhang said. “(The) people are friendly and the culture — I just really fell in love here.”

With a passion for justice, Zhang knew she wanted to study in the U.S. She moved in 2008 to study in upstate New York at Cornell University, where she went on to complete her Juris Doctor and meet her husband. Together, they moved to his home state of Kansas.

“After I went to law school in China, I realized that I wanted to come abroad,” Zhang said, “and then see what the common law is like here in the States versus China. After that, it was just amazing work.”

While giving their Oath of Allegiance, many immigrants cried during their last step before becoming a U.S. citizen. (Margaret Mellott/Kansas Reflector)
While giving their Oath of Allegiance, many immigrants cried during their last step before becoming a U.S. citizen. (Margaret Mellott/Kansas Reflector)

U.S. District Judge Robert D. Berger administered the Oath of Citizenship for the new citizens, who came from 27 countries: Algeria, Brazil, Burma, Canada, China, Congo (Kinshasa), Cote d’Ivoire, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Lithuania, Granada, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Syria, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Vietnam.

Samuel Swift-Perez joined his brother in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after leaving Venezuela in 2014 following political unrest attributed to many of the country’s economic policies.

“(This ceremony) means the beginning of a new life,” Samuel said. “It’s actually some kind of relief, to feel finally as a citizen because (for immigrants) you actually are a temporary resident and then a permanent resident, but you still feel a little limited. But now I feel very, very good and I’m very happy.”

He moved to Kansas City, Kansas, where he met his wife, Lacey Swift-Perez. They’ve been married for four years now and said they’re looking forward to what’s ahead. Wiping tears from her face, Lacey said the ceremony marked the end of uncertainty and fear for her husband’s future.

“I’m really grateful for this process,” Lacey said. “I’m really grateful that we made it to this point that he is now a full citizen and is able to be safe in our country.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids attends the naturalization ceremony July 3, 2022, in Kansas City, Kansas. (Margaret Mellott/Kansas Reflector)
Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids attends the naturalization ceremony July 3, 2022, in Kansas City, Kansas. (Margaret Mellott/Kansas Reflector)

Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids was in attendance to show support for the new U.S. citizens. For her first time seeing a naturalization ceremony, Davids said she was excited to celebrate the 47 new citizens.

“It’s pretty amazing to get the chance to be here,” Davids said. “A lot of people work really, really hard to be able to go through the entire process with the tests and everything else. I feel honored that I get to be part of this.”

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