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New U.S. citizens — immigrants from around the world — applaud at the conclusion of the Naturalization Ceremony at Middleton Place on Tuesday. Wade Spees/Staff

A week before the Fourth of July, 58 soon-to-be citizens of the United States sat underneath a grand oak tree near the banks of the Ashley River clutching American flags. 

Carolina Giordano was one of them. 

Her blue-and-white-striped dress swayed in the breeze as she tapped her red leather sandals on the ground. 

"Those are the colors!" she said of her outfit. 

This day, Tuesday, had been years in the making for the Venezuela native. She moved to Oklahoma in 2009 to study English. She watched from afar as violence tore through her home country. She fell in love with the freedoms of America. And she fell in love with the man who would become her husband. 

The couple moved to Columbia. In 2011, Giordano obtained temporary citizenship status. A few years later, she became a permanent resident. In 2015, she gave birth to the first of her two sons.

Then she applied for citizenship.

"This is home now," Giordano said. "I don't belong to Venezuela any more." 

That sentiment was shared by many others whose newly minted citizenship was celebrated during a sunny ceremony at Middleton Place, a carefully preserved rice plantation on the banks of the Ashley River. The plantation was the ancestral home of two patriots: Henry Middleton, of the second Continental Congress, and his son, Arthur Middleton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. 

The ceremony was on Arthur Middleton's birthday. It also happened to be Giordano's 34th birthday. 

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Carolina Giordano from Venezuela is congratulated afterwards. Immigrants from around the world became U.S. citizens during a Naturalization Ceremony at Middleton Place on Tuesday. Wade Spees/Staff

Charles Duell is a 10th generation descendant of Henry Middleton and currently serves as leader of the nonprofit through which the plantation is preserved and maintained. The naturalization ceremony, Duell said, was befitting of his ancestral home, one cultivated by immigrants.

"We are a nation of immigrants," Duell said. "We don't own this land. ... We were stewards of it for our life, but it really belongs to every South Carolinian and every American." 

Henry's father, Edward Middleton, fled England during the late 1600s to pursue agricultural work in Barbados. But that island's sugar cane industry was drying up, and Carolina was the apple in immigrants' eyes, Duell said. In 1678, Edward Middleton settled down west of the Ashley River. 

The Caracheo family began their immigration journey in 1998, when Arturo Caracheo, an electrician, left his home in Guanajuato, Mexico. He moved to Charleston and was joined by his wife, Imelda Caracheo, in 2000.

Imelda worked in restaurants here for nearly two decades. In 2017, she applied for her citizenship.

"For us, it was easy," said Arturo Caracheo, referencing the many immigrant families being separated at the border. 

"We love this country," Caracheo said. "This country gave us the opportunity to work."

The couple has four children, two of whom are still living in Mexico.

Chao-Ting Lee, who goes by "Jack," was born in Taiwan and moved to Charlotte at 16. Taiwanese schools were too militant, he said.

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Chao-Ting Lee, who goes by "Jack Lee," speaks of his journey from Taiwan. Immigrants from around the world became U.S. citizens during a Naturalization Ceremony at Middleton Place on Tuesday. Wade Spees/Staff

He left his family behind to study at Northside Christian Academy, where Lee could do something he wasn't allowed to do in Taiwan: play in the school band.

He played clarinet.

Another student, Juliann, played the flute.

The two musicians fell in love and got married. They moved to Columbia, where Jack Lee works in IT for the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Juliann Lee, 25, owns a childbirth business and works as a part-time paramedic. 

Jack Lee finally became a U.S. citizen this week. His 2-year-old daughter, Gabrielle Charlotte Lee, frolicked in the grass in a sparkly blue dress. 

"I believe in the future when (my children) grow up, they don't have to be bound to a desk and study all day," Jack Lee said. "I will never regret it, moving here." 

Gabrielle was too young to understand the significance of Tuesday's event, but that wasn't the case for all the children.

Becky Wang, 12, sat at a picnic table and doodled pictures of stick figures in dresses while her mother, a Chinese immigrant, accepted her new papers. Becky was born in the U.S., but her parents were born in China.

Her family lives in Columbia, where her mother is a real estate agent and her father is a professor at the University of South Carolina. 

Why was the ceremony important for Becky? 

"Since I'm an American citizen, I want my mom to be one, too," she said. 

Reach Hannah Alani at 843-937-5428. Follow her on Twitter @HannahAlani.

Hannah Alani is a reporter at The Post and Courier covering race, immigration and rural life across the Palmetto State. Before graduating from Indiana University and moving to Charleston in 2017, her byline appeared in The New York Times.