On Tuesday, April 23, 2019, 3,128 people from 131 different countries became U.S. citizens at the Los Angeles Convention Center, and one of those people was my husband! What an exciting, proud, and heart-warming day it was.
Long before I was born, my parents immigrated to the U.S., became citizens, and participated in the swearing in ceremony. Before them, my grandparents, also did this. Many of my family members have all become naturalized citizens, but it's not something I ever thought too much about. I have imagined that it must be incredibly special and meaningful for some families., and leading up to the day, I kept asking my husband how he felt, because I was just trying to imagine what it's like to become a citizen of another country. I think I would have a lot of emotions if I were in his seat. Of course, he's very French, and a man, so I didn't get much out of him. Nevertheless, I was excited to go support him at the ceremony and celebrate with him, but I really didn't know what to expect and didn't have a whole lot of emotions leading up to the day. So, I thought I'd share a few key highlights from the day in case you were wondering or ever have the opportunity to witness or participate in a swearing in ceremony.''
1. The Actual Ceremony
First of all, Los Angeles is one of the biggest cities for immigration, so it's natural that they would hold such a ceremony in a large room. What I did not expect was the Convention Center and 3,128 people plus their families. In my head I imagined maybe a large court room, or something much more intimate and me standing next to or near my husband so I could actually see him take his oath. There must have been at least 10,000 people total there. So, this may be unique to LA and other big cities, but I did not get to see or even stand near my husband when he took his oath. Therefore, I ultimately decided to sit in the back for easy access to the exits. There is a plus and a downside to that. The plus, was that they made all the guests leave first before dismissing the new citizens, and this meant that we would all exit the room and wait outside for our new citizens. The way this is set up at the LA Convention Center is almost like waiting for your family at Tom Bradley or any other international terminal at an airport. They taped off both sides of the escalators, so that we could watch out for our new citizen as s/he/they descended the elevators. Thus, everyone crowded around the taped off sections. So, having sat at the back and being one of the first to exit, I got a good spot which made for good videotaping. The downside to sitting at the back, was that room was so big I couldn't really see any of the speakers. Even the big screens weren't big enough for me to really see things clearly. I didn't mind that so much.
2. My Favorite Part of the Ceremony
The judge who oversaw the ceremony was very charismatic and his parents were also immigrants. But the thing that stood out to me most was something the woman from the USCIS said. She said, "We don't want you to leave your countries behind. We want you to bring them here, bring your new perspective." I really value that, especially in today's climate, because that IS what makes America already great.
3. Hot Dogs
If you ever go to the Staple Center for a game or concert, there's always hot dog carts outside before and after the events. If you're familiar with these hot dog carts, the hot dogs are really good and they're usually made by Hispanic immigrants. I was given a heads up that they'd be outside the Convention Center after the ceremony, so as soon as Chris came down the escalator waving his cute little American flag, we went outside to get a hot dog. What I didn't realize is that they don't have permits to be there and the police aren't keen on having them there. So, as I was getting my hot dog, the lady making my dog had to start pushing her cart into the shadows, because a cop was coming, and we just walked with her as she walked and made our hot dog. This ordeal made me laugh, because "welcome to America--the land of opportunity!" Everybody's hustling, and everybody's trying to make a buck. I love it. As the daughter of immigrants, and a native Angeleno, I am always down to support our immigrant community--especially those working hard to make a living and provide for their families. This was definitely my favorite part of the whole day. As we sat and ate our hot dog, we watched the hot dog carts roll back out into the sunshine and then roll back into the shadows every time the cops came by.
The ceremony overall was pretty short, but there was a bit of waiting upfront as all the new citizens filed in and registered their attendance. While you're there, you can also apply for your US passport and register to vote. In the lobby there are a few booths set up where you can buy teddy bears, flowers, and souvenir photos to commemorate the special day, too. During the ceremony, I found myself incredibly moved, because the fact is that many of these families have been waiting ages for this to happen. I'm sure many also were becoming citizens after fleeing their home countries. There's a lot of different reasons people come here, and together we make up a pretty special and unique home.
When I asked Chris what his favorite part of the ceremony was, I was touched by his response and I felt proud to be an American. He said that what resonated with him was when the USCIS woman talked about our country being a kind and open country, and Chris agreed with her. Something Chris values is that you can have a familiar conversation with a stranger here, and that is something unique to our culture. It's our kindness and generosity that makes people want to come here, and be part of our community. May we remember this kindness and keep our doors open to those who want to help continue making our nation great.
Do you have swearing in ceremony stories? Share your stories and thoughts in the comments!
You can watch the video I made on my IGTV or YouTube. Follow me @j.isforjawesome to keep up with the adventures!
BIG LOVE & HUGS