For newly naturalized citizens, ceremony marks a milestone
Erika Groover remembers how she became an American citizen.
In addition to fulfilling other requirements, candidates for citizenship have to pass English and civics tests before they are naturalized.
Civics questions are chosen from a pool of 100. Candidates are asked 10 questions, and must answer six correctly to pass.
Here’s a sample of some of the more challenging questions, along with their answers.
1. How many amendments does the Constitution have?
2. The House of Representatives has how many voting members?
3. Who is the chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States now?
4. The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.
5. Who was president during World War I?
6. Before he was president, Dwight Eisenhower was a general. What war was he in?
Answers: 1. 27; 2. 435; 3. John Roberts; 4. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay or Publius; 5. Woodrow Wilson; 6. World War II.
As a child in Austria, the kindness of U.S. troops occupying her home country struck her. Her kindergarten classmates jokingly rhymed her name with “America.”
Those memories stuck with her, even years later as she boarded a flight to the United States.
That flight made an emergency landing after an engine caught fire, an exciting twist that made her wonder if she ever would make it to the States.
She did, eventually, but once she settled in Charleston about 50 years ago, she encountered a more pervasive challenge.
“I had four years of English in school, and I thought surely I had mastered this,” Groover said. “Not so. I call this language in Charleston the Charlestonese, with the y’alls and the hain’ts and the gets.”
With time she overcame that struggle too, and on July 31, 1964, she took the oath of allegiance. Finally, she had made it.
“Now I, too, was an American, and I had a piece of paper to prove it,” she recalled. “That was an awesome feeling.”
At Middleton Place on Tuesday, 48 years later, she shared that feeling with 50 immigrants from 30 countries as they too recited the oath.
For many of the newly naturalized citizens and their families, the ceremony marked a significant moment and the start of something new.
Bertha Surratt emigrated from Mexico in 1983. She was married last October, but because she wasn’t a U.S. citizen she wasn’t able to take her husband’s name.
Now she can.
“It was very exciting,” she said. “It’s been a long time.”
For others, it meant their families were finally united in their citizenship.
When Lordinio Castillo came to the U.S. from the Philippines in 1990, he had to leave his two sons behind until he could petition the government to issue them green cards, in 1999.
In the years since they have worked on their citizenship requirements, and a few months ago his eldest son gained his citizenship.
His youngest son, Alison Lord, is autistic, his dad said, so the interview portion of the process was difficult for him.
On Tuesday, that process was over and Alison Lord gained his citizenship, three months after his older brother.
“Today, this is the happiest part of my life,” Lordinio Castillo said. “Now, we’re fully American citizens. It’s a great country.”
Whatever their story, the 50 were among some 640,000 citizens naturalized each year by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, including about 5,000 by its Charleston field office, according to the office’s director, Wendy Wilcox.
And as they raised their right hands, they also joined about 20,300 people who will become citizens between Tuesday and July 1 at 30 ceremonies around the nation and world during the agency’s annual Independence Day celebration.
They did so on what would have been the birthday of Arthur Middleton, who signed the Declaration of Independence, on his plantation before a backdrop rife with history.
“It’s not just Middleton history,” Charles Duell, the president of the Middleton Place Foundation, told the 50 gathered candidates. “It’s American history. And now you’ve become a part of that history.”
Reach Thad Moore at 958-7360 or on Twitter @thadmoore.