SEATTLE - Close to 500 immigrants from 80 different countries became U.S. citizens at the Seattle Center today.
"Fourth of July. It's probably the most American day of all American days," said Spc. Robert Guilherme. He's a soldier in the United States Army who finally became a U.S. citizen today, years after arriving in Louisiana from Canada when he was four years old.
Guilherme is stationed at Fort Lewis. When both his parents became U.S. citizens, he studied with them as they prepared for their exam. Even though his parents live in Texas and couldn’t be here, today he was clearly excited to be among so many people who were also sworn in.
"There's people from probably all over the world here to see their families become naturalized,” he said. "Everybody being here, it feels great. I mean, get to be an American. Who doesn't want to be American?:
He says serving in the Army takes on so much more significance, now that he’s a U.S. citizen.
"I'm in the US Army and I'm getting to be a citizen, so I'm finally getting to feel more a part of my country than what I already am,” said a beaming Guilherme. “I’m gonna pretty much say the Oath of Allegiance and the Pledge of Allegiance - and I'm an American.”
With his family in Texas, he says a buddy and a girlfriend are helping him celebrate.
The top three largest immigrant groups represented at today’s ceremony were from the Philippines, India and Mexico, with 56, 45 and 38, respectively.
They were followed by new citizens from Vietnam, China and Canada, with 37, 31 and 29 members of each group.
They were welcomed to the U.S. by Ninth Circuit Appeals Court Judge Robert Tallman, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, Governor Jay Inslee and other local officials. The ceremony was part of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ annual Independence Day festivities.
The Navy Northwest Band, Native American performers and the Total Experience Gospel Choir entertained the new citizens and their families.
In the last 12 months, Washington, Oregon and Alaska have welcomed 30,487 new citizens. More than 18,000 of those made Seattle their permanent home. According to U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, 10,321 people were also granted permanent residence in those states during the same 12 months.