400 men and women sang the national anthem for the first time as naturalized citizens.
Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen and U.S. District Judge Rolando Olvera presided over the naturalizations proceedings.
The 400th new citizen is an El Salvadorian native while others are natives of Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Nicaragua, Peru, the Philippines, Republic of Korea, Trinidad & Tobago, Venezuela and Vietnam.
Judges Hanen and Olvera asked natives of each country to stand and be recognized country by country.
When a Syrian native was asked to stand a judge said “God Bless Syria.” Presumably due to the tension between U.S. and Syria.
Of the 400 new citizens, most were from neighboring country, Mexico.
The ceremony took place at the Brownsville Event Center which is 5 miles away from the nearest Port of Entry.
26-year old, Luz Hernandez is a mother of two as of Wednesday is officially a naturalized citizen.
“I’m so happy to be here! I’m a United States citizen!” Hernandez has lived in the United States for 7 years and works legally. Hernandez said the process was not incredibly difficult and took one year to the date from when the naturalization process began to the ceremony, “Oh I’m so happy so glad it’s a blessing.”
Hernandez’s process may not be the same for others. She is computer savvy and can navigate through the paperwork.
Paula Barerra with Proyecto Juan Diego often helps non-computer savvy families navigate the naturalization process. At Wednesday’s naturalization ceremony, between 20-30 new citizens have Barerra to thank for starting their American Dream.
“There was a participant that came to me to say, ‘thank you’… If you see me crying it’s because I enter this country as an immigrant and I guess I walk the path…”
Barerra shares a connection with those she helps, “This country for me is a blessing. I turned the bad things into good things. So today I am very grateful first to God because he had led me to lead others for a good cause.”