Denver naturalization ceremony

Proud to be a new American

52 immigrants gain U.S. citizenship at Denver naturalization ceremony

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Dennis Reijnders' American-born wife Anna was about six months away from gaining Dutch citizenship when his job with a cell phone company was transferred to a different city in the Netherlands.

But the couple, who met when Anna was going to college in Britain, didn't want to live in Amsterdam. They decided to move to the U.S.

“He was always fascinated with America,” Anna Reijnders said.

So they stored their belongings and moved into Anna's parents' basement. Upon arrival, they set a one-year goal to get new jobs, cars and a home to call their own.

The couple, who now live in Thornton, met these initial goals then moved on to something even bigger.

Dennis and 51 other people from 29 countries became U.S. citizens in a Feb. 14 ceremony in downtown Denver attended by family and friends.

The ceremony, which took place at the History Colorado Center, was the first of many to occur across the U.S. during the week leading up to President's Day, in which 25,000 people were slated to earn U.S. citizenship.

“It takes commitment and hard work,” said Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet in a letter read by his senior advisor Rosemary Rodriguez at the ceremony.

But not only did these people choose to become U.S. citizens, said JJ Rutherford, director of education at the History Colorado, they chose to be residents of Colorado.

“Being a citizen is a privilege," new citizen Luis Lopez of Aurora said. "You get better opportunities. That's why they call America the land of opportunity.”

Lopez grew up in a border town in Mexico. All his life he knew he would like the U.S., he said. “This is something I've always wanted.”

So had Abdel Perez Moreno of Colorado Springs. Born in Panama, Moreno, 38, has been in the country since 1993. He went to high school in Colorado Springs, and although he attended some college for a career in auto mechanics, citizenship will help open doors for better jobs, he said.

“I'm very proud of him,” said mother Eneida Davis. “He is a good son, and he deserves this.”

Yolanda Burton, a dentist in her home country of Colombia, came to the U.S. eight years ago when she married her American-born husband Mark.

Having citizenship is important, Burton said, because it gives a person the right to vote. But for her personally, Burton wanted her 14-year-old son to have all the opportunities American children have. He can also gain U.S. citizenship since his mother is now naturalized, she said.

Burton, a Denver resident, encourages everybody who is eligible to earn citizenship to do so.

“It's not a hard process,” she said, “just time-consuming.”

That process includes demonstrating good moral character, becoming competent with the English language and passing a U.S. civics and government test of 10 questions chosen from 100 possible ones studied.

Norma and Youssef Ibrahim of Aurora left their careers as doctors in Egypt to come to the U.S. so they could provide a better life and good education for their three children.

Nearly six years later, the two are excited to settle in as new U.S. citizens.

“You can see it on our faces,” said Youssef Ibrahim, as he and wife smiled. “There's no comparison to the U.S.”

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