“Today is a very exciting day as we welcome 60 new citizens to the United States of America,” said Homestead National Monument superintendent Mark Engler.
The Naturalization Ceremony took place on Saturday, June 14 -- Flag Day -- at the Homestead National Monument.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Cheryl Zwart welcomed the new citizens in her keynote address and performed the administration of oath. The new members stood beneath bright skies and green trees, their right hands held high in declaration of their new citizenship.
For Vinay and Anshika Banerjee, the naturalization ceremony is one of celebration. Vinay watches with his two daughters as his wife accepts her role as an American citizen.
“It’s quite the process,” he said. “It’s an exciting accomplishment.”
Vinay moved from India to the United States with his family over thirty years ago. He was seven when he became a citizen.
“I don’t remember it being a huge celebration like this, but I’m sure it was,” he said.
When he met and later married his wife, Anshika, she too moved from India to live in Nebraska.
Anshika’s citizenship means that her and her family are all in the same boat. “We’re all citizens now. I’m not the odd one out,” she laughs.
Vinay and Anshika live with their daughters, Prina, 3, and Kripa, 9 months, in Gretna. Friends were there to celebrate Anshika’s new citizenship and welcomed her with hugs and well wishes following the ceremony.
“They’re like family to me. People are so kind here. We really don’t have family close by,” Anshika said.
The couple admits that the hardest part is being away from family. While Vinay’s family lives closer, Anshika’s parents have never held their grandchildren.
“We plan on visiting them this September,” Anshika said.
While the wait was long, Anshika said that the process was easier than she expected. She has lived here for three years. She quickly noticed the cultural differences.
“There’s so much less traffic,” she laughed.
For their young girls, citizenship in the United States brings hope for the future. “It’s more secure,” Anshika said. “Safer. My girls will have more opportunities here.”
Prina walks around the green space, American flag in hand.
“She’s been saying all day, ‘oath, oath’ because she knew it was the day her mother would take her oath. She said it all morning,” Vinay said.
It’s a family celebration, one that’s being celebrated all around the world while the family celebrates in Nebraska.
“My parents called me this morning to congratulate me,” Anshika said. “They were so happy.”
This occasion is one to be celebrated for years to come.
Judge Cheryl Zwart finished, “Welcome to the family. Welcome home. Welcome to the United States of America.”