Arkansas sworn in 364 new US citizens on anniversary of Constitution

LITTLE ROCK - SPRIGDALE, AR -- Nearly 364 people became United States citizens during ceremonies on Wednesday, September 17, at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock and the Jones Center for Families in Springdale.

The naturalization ceremonies were a part of the Constitution Day celebration, commemorating the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787.

The group was so large at the Clinton Library, 300 people, that it was necessary to be split into morning and afternoon sessions to accommodate family and friends who packed the Library's Great Hall.

The morning session was officiated by U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerry Cavaneau, and the new citizens were addressed by the Honorable Jimmie Lou Fisher, former State Treasurer of Arkansas. The afternoon ceremony was officiated by U.S. District Judge Brian Miller and the address delivered by Governor Mike Beebe, who praised the group for having the tenacity to work through the citizenship process.

In Springdale, the Arkansas Citizenship Coalition (ACC) presented the Naturalization Ceremony at the Jones Center for Families where 64 new citizens from18 different countries will be sworn in.

All of the coalition members support each other to provide assistance to legal permanent residents in the citizenship preparation process. ACC’s goal is to make the naturalization process more accessible and make it a memorable experience for the new Americans receiving their citizenship. “There are so many good reasons to pursue citizenship, besides the right to vote, citizens are eligible for better jobs and more educational opportunities” explained Margarita Solorzano, HWOA executive director.

Governor Mike Beebe, said “Every day, people from all over the world pledge to become a part of this nation and a part of that shared future. I had the opportunity to welcome and congratulate some newly naturalized citizens, as they took a solemn oath as Americans and as Arkansans. On the very date that our country's Constitution was drafted 221 years before, men and women became a part of this nation and of this state. It was a moving ceremony, and as I looked out at the crowd, I saw written across their faces and reflected in their eyes the American Dream realized. “

For most, the road to citizenship had been long and arduous. Their decision to leave their homeland and come to our shores was an act of courage and faith. For the average person striving to become a US citizen, the process takes six to seven years-and that's a best-case scenario. I appreciate and admire these men and women who, despite the difficulties and delays, enter the country the right way.

Beebe added, “It is time now for the federal government to face this reality and commit to the task of creating comprehensive immigration reform, so that qualified, hard-working people, like these, can participate in the American Dream without growing old in the process.”

In 2006 the HWOA brought together a group of organizations in the area to form the Arkansas Coalition for Citizenship (ACC), which promotes citizenship and provides comprehensive services to legal permanent residents living in Arkansas.

According to recent studies by the Urban Institute, there are more than 30,000 legal permanent residents in our state. ACC members are: HWOA, Arkansas Adult Education Centers NWACC, NTI, and Fayetteville, Catholic Charities and Immigration Services, the Jones Center for Families, and LULAC Council 761 at the University of Arkansas.

“Working together we are increasing the impact of our work in the community and more people are able to reach the American dream,” said Solorzano, HWOA.

¡Hola! Arkansas Staff Writers

About the Author