YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK — Forty-two people from 15 countries will take the Oath of Allegiance Thursday, becoming American citizens in one of America’s most spectacular settings.
The naturalization ceremony is taking place this week in Yosemite National Park to mark Constitution Week — and Citizenship Day.
The hour-long event begins Thursday at 11 a.m. in the Glacier Point Amphitheater, which is about an hour’s drive from the park’s South entrance.
With Half Dome and the Yosemite Valley as a backdrop, the naturalization ceremony will also include a brief welcoming speech by Yosemite National Park Superintendent Michael Reynolds and a keynote speech by Judge Jeremy D. Peterson.
Judge Peterson is the U.S. Magistrate Judge in Yosemite National Park. His chambers are at the U.S. District Court in Yosemite Valley, where he hears criminal cases originating in the park and in the neighboring national forests.
Judge Peterson also handles civil cases originating in other parts of the Eastern District of California. He took the bench in April 2018.
Yosemite National Park’s Mounted Patrol will present the Colors at the ceremony.
“We have this every year and it’s really emotional,” said YNP spokesman Scott Gediman. “This will be my eleventh time attending the ceremony.”
Gediman said the park’s concessionaire actually donates apple pies for the event so the first thing the new citizens eat after the ceremony is “a slice of pie with a little American flag in it. We thought that was a pretty cool idea.”
The diverse group of 42 newly naturalized citizens, who hail from all over the globe, will be joined by their family and friends as they celebrate becoming American citizens in one of the most iconic settings in America.
“We try to encourage the families to make a day of it in the park” after the ceremony, Gediman said, adding participants and their families receive free park admission and many tend to come from the Fresno area.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services selects the pool of participants for each year’s ceremony. “I think they look for people who represent varied backgrounds,” Gediman said.
Countries of origin for Thursday’s participants include Argentina, Armenia, Cambodia, Laos, India, Mexico and Thailand.
The Oath ceremony is a tradition dating back to the 1700’s and America’s beginnings as a nation itself.
Attending the Oath of Allegiance ceremony is mandatory as the final step of the naturalization process.
When taking the Oath, the new citizen promises to support and defend the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the United States against its enemies; give up allegiance to any other nation or sovereign, and renounce hereditary or noble titles (if any); and provide military or civilian service when called upon by the government to do so.