U.S. immigration officials celebrated new citizenship for 24 Northern California children at a special ceremony today in Sacramento. The children, none older than 12, qualified for citizenship either because their parents are also naturalized U.S. citizens or because they were adopted by Americans.
"Now you are an American," Sacramento clinical psychologist Jayanthi Kasiraj told her four-year-old daughter Riya, who was adopted in India a year ago.
"Now I'm family," replied Riya, who was wearing a silk South India dress and tiny sneakers with flashing lights.
A law passed by Congress in 2000 now grants automatic U.S. citizenship to children once U.S. parents adopt them. Before then, adopted children had to apply, as legal residents, for citizenship.
Even though children under 14 no longer need to officially take an oath, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency holds occasional ceremonies to celebrate the passage to citizenship.
Michael Biggs, field director of the Sacramento citizenship office, led the children in reciting the citizenship oath and told them stories of immigrants who found success in the United States.
"Today, as we stand at a threshold between the old year and the new year, we commemorate the citizenship of these children, honoring their past and celebrating the potential that they bring to America," Biggs said.
Photo Caption: Nancy Swift of Mount Shasta holds her daughter, Meskerean Chandler, 2, before she was sworn in as a citizen during a ceremony by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at their field office in Sacramento on Tuesday. Photo by Hector Amezcua