Fifteen area residents became citizens of the United States today in a special ceremony at the Beaumont Public Library.
Magistrate Judge Zack Hawthorn, who presided over the Naturalization Oath Ceremony, said he was honored to be conducting it at the library. Naturalization ceremonies are usually held at the Federal Courthouse downtown.
“The Beaumont Public Library has been very important in my life,” said Judge Hawthorn. “That’s the room I learned to read in as a child,” he said, indicating a room adjacent to the makeshift courtroom in the library’s first floor where citizenship candidates, friends and family gathered for the milestone event.
The ceremony was the culmination of extensive preparation – sometimes years long – by each candidate to earn the right to become an American citizen.
Kirbyville resident Abraham Zuniga said he prepared for six years for the day he could take the Oath of Allegiance and “make my dreams come true.”
“I’m so excited,” said Zuniga. “I’m very proud to be an American.”
Zuniga said libraries have played an important role in his life, as well. As a college student in the Houston area, he regularly used libraries as a resource. He also learned English through the Houston Public Library.
Barbara Beard, Director of the Maureen Gray Literacy Center, appealed to Judge Hawthorn by letter several months ago to hold the ceremony at the library in recognition of Citizenship Day, also known as Constitution Day. The center offers ESL classes, as well as citizenship test preparation.
Beard pointed out after the ceremony that some candidates come from countries where there is no free public library system. “It was important to us that they be able to be physically present in the library and see what’s available to them.” said Beard. “We’re very happy to host it.”
Once the candidates took the oath of citizenship, Judge Hawthorn made it official.
“You’re a United States citizen now, and no one will ever be able to take that away from you,” he said.