MOUNT PLEASANT — They came from 52 countries around the world to become U.S. citizens and renounce allegiance to their native land.
Civics quiz for citizenship
Applicants for citizenship are required to demonstrate a knowledge of U.S. history and government during an oral exam in which they are asked 10 questions from a list of 100 questions. They must answer six questions correctly to pass the civics portion of the naturalization test.
Here is a sample of the questions:
What was one important thing that Abraham Lincoln did?
What is one responsibility that is only for United States citizens?
The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words?
What happened at the Constitutional Convention?
When must all men register for the Selective Service?
“I know that each of you have made a courageous decision,” said U.S. District Court Judge Richard M. Gergel.
Constitution Week events
Charles Pinckney National Historic Site celebrates Constitution Week with free events scheduled through Monday at 1254 Long Point Road in Mount Pleasant.
The park preserves the last 28 acres of Snee Farm, a plantation that was once owned by Charles Pinckney, a principal framer and signer of the U.S. Constitution.
On Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., the public is invited to a screening of the 2010 documentary on Pinckney that was produced by SCETV. “Forgotten Founder: the Story of Charles Pinckney” features original art work, period illustrations, historical documents, dramatic re-enactments and studio interviews.
Throughout the week, visitors may take part in the “I Signed the Constitution” program, signing a scroll in remembrance of what occurred 226 years ago in Philadelphia when Pinckney and 38 other delegates signed the world-changing document on Sept. 17, 1787.
All events are free. For more information or group reservations, call the park at 881-5516 or go to nps.gov/chpi/.
Gergel, who said his grandparents were from Poland and Russia, led 111 people in an oath as they swore to become Americans.
“It's a relief. It was an arduous process,” said John Lee, 19, a Myrtle Beach resident from South Korea.
His mother, Meesook Lee, also became a citizen. The family has a dry cleaning business and John Lee is a student at Clemson University.
“There are a lot more opportunities in America than you can find anywhere else,” he said.
The naturalization ceremony took place Tuesday in a large tent erected on the grounds of the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site.
“I finally get to vote. No more showing the green card,” said Renate Marek, 41, a native of Germany who lives in Columbia.
Lance Cpl. Tung Lam, who came from Vietnam, said he arrived in Los Angeles with his parents in 2004. Lam, 20, is stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort.
“Today feels like I'm reborn. I consider it my second birthday,” he said.
The candidates for citizenship represented a diversity of nations including the Philippines, India, China, Canada, Nigeria, Jamaica, Venezuela, England, Russia, Mexico, Argentina and Somalia. They pledged to support and defend the U.S. Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. They promised to bear arms on behalf of the U.S. when required by law.
The citizenship applicants completed a three- to four-month process of naturalization that included passing a U.S. government and history exam and demonstrating the ability to read, write and speak English. They also went through an extensive background check and security clearance.
In federal fiscal year 2013, some 5,000 people in South Carolina became U.S. citizens. Weekly naturalization ceremonies occur at government offices, said Karen Dalziel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Some immigrants petition the court for a name change. “A lot of them like to Anglify their name. Some of them like to choose an historical name,” she said.
The naturalization ceremony was the 16th annual one held at the Pinckney Historic Site under the auspices of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the National Park Service and the U.S. District Court. The Daughters of the American Revolution provided refreshments and distributed U.S. flags. The Wando High School Choir performed the National Anthem, and the Citadel Color Guard participated. Councilwoman Thomasena Stokes-Marshall congratulated the new citizens and welcomed them to Mount Pleasant.
Senior Airman Alvaro Koo, 24, of Panama, who wore military fatigues, said becoming a citizen meant he could re-enlist in the Air Force in the next few months. Koo, who came to the U.S. with his parents, said he is stationed at Shaw Air Force Base near Sumter.
“You lose something,” he said of renouncing his Panamanian citizenship. “At the same time, you gain something new,” he said.
Emmanuel Tayi, 23, of Ivory Coast in West Africa, serves in the Air Force. He said that his new U.S. citizenship gives him more opportunities in the military.