Nearly 2,000 people become U.S. citizens in St. Paul

People hold their right hands up to take an oath.
Nearly 2,000 Minnesotans take the oath of allegiance during a naturalization ceremony at the St. Paul RiverCentre on Wednesday.
Elizabeth Shockman | MPR News

Nearly 2,000 Minnesotans from 93 countries on Wednesday raised their right hands and promised their allegiance to the United States at a pair of swearing-in ceremonies in St. Paul.

The newly naturalized included Israel Pinner, originally of Mexico. The 31-year-old's family was granted asylum when he was 5.

Pinner said the right to vote motivated him to start the process of applying for citizenship.

"I'm not going to get political or anything, but it is important that communities come together that if we do want to see change that we put our voice out there, that we put our ballots out there,” Pinner said.

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The number of people becoming citizens in this country reached a five-year high in fiscal year 2018. Roughly 757,000 took the oath of allegiance in fiscal year 2018 — a 16 percent increase over four years, according to a recent report from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. More than 9,400 of those naturalized in 2018 were Minnesotans.

On Wednesday morning at the St. Paul RiverCentre, the new citizens in St. Paul heard a lot about their new responsibilities from both St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and federal bankruptcy Judge Michael E. Ridgway, who led the ceremony.

”You will become another part of the huge pattern of humanity that the United States has always been in all of its designs and colors and beauties,” Ridgway told the crowd.

As in other recent naturalization ceremonies in Minnesota, this one skipped playing President Trump’s 90-second recorded video message congratulating the new citizens. A spokesperson for the federal courts in Minnesota told Sahan Journal last month that she was not aware of a Minnesota federal judge who is showing the video, though it’s unclear why.

Ravinder Singh, who first came to the country with an employment H-1B visa, shared his excitement with a few other friends. They, too, were from India and became citizens at the same ceremony. Singh said traveling will be much easier now with a U.S. passport.

“Finally made it,” he said with a smile.