Students at Ursuline Academy witness 67 immigrants become United States citizens

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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – Sixty-seven immigrants were sworn in as United States citizens in the auditorium of Ursuline Academy on Thursday (Sept. 21).

School leaders invited students to witness the naturalization ceremony as part of a class project about citizenship.

Lylian Roccaforte, a seventh-grade student at Ursuline Academy, said she was amazed to find out what the people went through to gain U.S. citizenship.

“I thought it was really beautiful,” Roccaforte said. “They had to fight for them. They do all these different things, and I feel like we shouldn’t take them for granted just because we’re born with them.”

The ceremony included immigrants from several different countries. Valeria Cox said she moved from Mexico to Mississippi in 2005 when she was 12. The naturalization process takes 18 to 24 months on average.

“I didn’t speak English,” Cox said. “You go through a lot of troubles through being an immigrant.”

She said she’s happy to finally call the U.S. her home after 18 years of waiting to qualify for citizenship.

“I’ve worked for so long, trying to get here, and I just feel very grateful,” she said.

Federal Judge Ivan Lemelle said naturalization ceremonies should make those who are born American citizens grateful for the rights they already have.

“American-born citizens, who didn’t have to go through the process of naturalization, would find that they would have some difficulties getting through it,” Lemelle said. “Naturalized citizens have made a tremendous contribution, and they think they can make a difference, and they will.”

For young Roccaforte, witnessing individuals like Cox becoming citizens of the United States serves as a reminder of the privilege of birthright.

“It makes me feel very thankful that I was born here and that I have these rights,” she concluded, echoing the sentiment of gratitude shared by many in attendance.

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