Jutka Emoke Barabas remembers that jittery feeling well. She was naturalized in 2000 in Honolulu, where she still lives, and is one of several CNN iReporters who spoke aboutwhy they chose to become American citizens. "Everyone arrived too early and we found ourselves standing and waiting, hardly able to contain our excitement," she said. "Everyone seemed to speak at the same time as they shared their stories with one another." There was a soldier from Cambodia, and Emoke Barabas herself, a political refugee from Hungary.
As a writer with dissenting views, Emoke Barabas said she had been thrown in a Romanian prison under former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Her father showed her a photo of the Statue of Liberty, telling her, "This is the place where freedom lives." After her release, she said she made it to Switzerland and, eventually, to the United States in 1990. Ten years later, she became a U.S. citizen.
"For me, American citizenship means freedom of expression and to live and work in a free country ... and not have to be afraid of being arrested or harassed because of owning certain common books or pictures," said Emoke Barabas. She also feels a sense of responsibility to her adopted country. "To be an American is not just a great honor, but also an obligation to do more and reach higher."NPR reports:
Forty-four soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan are celebrating this Fourth of July as American citizens for the first time after their naturalization ceremony at Kandahar Air Field.
Among those preparing to recite the oath was Griselda Murorodarte. The 21-year-old Army specialist was born in Mexico and grew up in California.
She said it's important for her to become a U.S. citizen.
"I do wear the flag on my right shoulder, and I proudly wear it, and now I can proudly say I'm an American citizen," she said.
When Murorodarte was 4, her mother took her and her sister to the U.S. to escape a bad family situation in southern Mexico. She said she owes everything to her mother because of all the sacrifices she made for her to be where she is today.
Murorodarte said she knew that joining the Army would allow her to get her citizenship more quickly, but the access to educational opportunities influenced her more. She's not focused on any of that right now, though.
"Honestly, my mindset at the moment is duty," she said. "Mission comes first, but this is a very special day for me and I'm always going to remember this."A week ago, The Los Angeles Daily News reported:
Joaquin Arciago Guzman could barely recite the Oath of Allegiance but did get up from his wheelchair and put his hand over his heart to become - at age 102 - a naturalized American citizen Wednesday. | See photo gallery.
The moment marked a rare achievement for the North Hollywood man - nationwide only 27 people older than age 100 have become U.S. citizens in at least the past 50 years.
"I'm happy," the Philippines-born immigrant said in Tagalog after the ceremony at the Los Angeles Convention Center.