Federal courthouse hosts naturalization ceremony

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 8, 2010

NATCHEZ — Memorial Hall experienced a first in its 157-year history Wednesday.

Now a United States District Court, the historic building hosted Natchez’s first naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens.

The naturalization petitions of the 21 applicants, from as far south as the Gulf Coast and as far north as Jackson, were approved by U.S. Magistrate Judge John Roper.

Roper called the occasion historic for the City of Natchez during the ceremony.

“This is, in a way, a historic occasion today,” he said. “We have searched our records and have not found any record anytime in the past that a naturalization ceremony has been in Natchez. And, we know this is the first time in this building.”

The applicants, with countries of origins from China, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Oman, Russia, Ukraine and Vietnam, completed the naturalization process and were found qualified for naturalization, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Graben said.

“Today these applicants are being given what is the single greatest legal status any nation can bestow,” he said.

And Maria Garcia, 34, of Jackson was excited to have received such the title of U.S. citizen, she said.

Garcia, who has lived in the United States since she was 16, said the benefits of becoming a naturalized citizen were numerous.

“There are opportunities for good jobs, good education, good quality of life as a citizen,” she said. “This is a good step for me and my family.”

Garcia owns Cozumel Mexican Restaurant in Ridgeland and said being a naturalized citizen will also have benefits from a business standpoint, as well.

“I think completing this will make doing business easier in some ways,” she said. “This is very exciting for me. I’m more excited than I thought I’d be.”

Roper said being a citizen is a great honor and does bring with it many good opportunities, but he said it also brings with it many obligations.

“You have the opportunity to do anything you want, and your children have the opportunity to do whatever they want,” Roper said. “You are subject to the same rights, but also the same obligations to take advantage of those opportunities.”