So my naturalization oath day finally arrived. It in Pomona, which is about 60 miles from here, and they said to arrive at 12:30. So I set off around 11, and arrived around12 (unusually clear traffic for LA). When you arrive it’s pretty much a case of follow the signs. There was a huge queue of cars at the gate (gate 17, not 14 as they listed on the note), and they charge $9 for parking.
Then just follow the streams of people into the fairground, it was quite a long walk (about half a mile total), and I’m glad it was not too hot.
Then we are separated out into “Future Citizens” and “Family and Friends”. I joined the “Future Citizens” line (click any of these photos for big versions)
Eventually we all get inside, there’s a bunch of tables where they take away your green card (gone forever!) and write a number on your appointment letter.
Then we were given small American flags and sat down, and waited for the ceremony to begin. This seems to take rather a long time, and I think we actually start around 1:30.
That’s the last photo I took. If you look in the upper left you can see a small area for family and friends to view the ceremony. I think that space is very limited, crowded standing room only, and a lot of people ended up outside. The ceremony started with some calling to order (seing as how it was actually a court, with a Judge and all). Pretty much the first thing we did was stand a take the oath:
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.
This was done by the Judge reading it out a bit at a time, and everyone (3500 people) repeating it. This was not so simple, as the sound system was terrible, and it was hard to hear what he was saying, especially with words like “abjure” and “potentate” in there. Still, we got through it, and then everyone clapped and waved their flags.
Next someone gave a speech, which I think was about the history, honor, and responsibility of being an American citizen. Unfortunately I was only able to hear one word in ten.
Next they played us a video of Lee Greenwood singing “God bless the USA“, set to a montage of images of America – Steel Mills, Mountains, Birds, Oceans, People, etc. This seemed a little asecular to me, but what can you do.
We then pledge allegiance to the flag, sang the national anthem, and that was the ceremony over. We were shuffled back to the tables where we went the the table number we were given earlier to collect our certificates.
A that point you are done and can leave. But I chose to go and apply for a passport in the next building. This took another hour, with the long line. Plus they take away your certificate (will be mailed back later), and you are technically not allowed to make a copy of it, so you will be left without evidence of citizenship during that time, except for the reciept they give you, and the letters you had from earlier. Passports take 2-4 weeks, so although I’m a fully legal American citizen now (feels a bit odd writing that), the process is not quite over.
[Update: My passport arrived in three weeks, with the certificate mailed separately]