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Immigrants become citizens during ceremony

Hannah Grover
hgrover@daily-times.com

AZTEC — More than a dozen new citizens were welcomed to the United States during a ceremony today at the Aztec Ruins National Monument.

Andrew Gulliford, a professor of history and environmental science at Fort Lewis College, speaks in the Great Kiva during the naturalization ceremony for 18 new American citizens on Saturday at Aztec Ruins National Monument.

The 18 New Mexico residents came from 11 countries, including Canada, China, Finland, Germany, Guatemala, Iraq, Mexico, the Philippines, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United Kingdom.

They celebrated their new citizenship as the national monument celebrated the centennial of the National Park Service, which was created on Aug. 25, 1916.

“Our national parks are as diverse as our country itself,” Nathan Hatfield, the Aztec Ruins National Monument chief of interpretation, told the new citizens during the naturalization ceremony.

He said the national parks system includes archaeological sites such as Aztec Ruins, battlefields, wilderness areas and historical places.

“They’re places of triumph, and they’re places of mourning,” he said.

Each of the new citizens was given a passport book to the national parks, which was stamped with an Aztec Ruins symbol following the naturalization ceremony.

Taif Ismael, originally from Baghdad, Iraq, who now lives in Albuquerque, takes the Oath of Allegiance to the United States along with 17 others during a naturalization ceremony in the Great Kiva on Saturday at Aztec Ruins National Monument.

Colette Mee Chong-Armijo, originally from Trinidad and Tobago, said she moved to the United States three years ago to be with her husband. She described the naturalization ceremony as emotional, especially when she was taking the oath of citizenship and giving up her allegiance to her home country in the Caribbean.

The 18 new citizens decided to pursue citizenship for a variety of reasons.

Colin Nicholls was born in Birmingham, England, and has been living in the United States for 14 years. When his residence card came up for renewal, he decided to get his U.S. citizenship because he said he knew he was not going to live anywhere else.

Taif Ismael’s citizenship came after six years of living in the United States.

“It’s my dream,” he said. “When I was a kid, to be here and to live here.”

Colette Mee Chong Armijo, background, originally from Trinidad and Tobago and who now lives in Raton, takes part in a naturalization ceremony along with 17 others on Saturday at Aztec Ruins National Monument.

He said the United States offered him a better life than Iraq and a chance to raise his children in a place where they would feel safe and secure.

“I like America,” he said. “I love the people here.”

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.