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Newest US citizens have ceremony at historic Fort Clatsop

September 19, 2018
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In this Monday, Sept. 17, 2018 photo, newly recognized citizens recite the oath of allegiance at a naturalization ceremony at the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park near Warrenton, Ore. (Colin Murphey /Daily Astorian via AP)

ASTORIA, Ore. (AP) — After taking the oath of citizenship at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Lis Campos immediately turned her head right and smiled at her father, Jardiel Campos.

The father had already earned his citizenship after fleeing from Cuba in 2000. Now, the daughter was following suit.

As part of Constitution Week and Citizen Day, the federal government is holding more than 260 naturalization ceremonies for nearly 45,000 people. Family connections were a common theme as about 30 people from 14 different countries — including nine from Mexico, three from Thailand and two from Russia — became citizens at Fort Clatsop this week.

Once he arrived in the U.S., the government gave Jardiel Campos a choice of places to live. Portland, more than 3,000 miles away from Cuba, was appealing.

“The idea was to be as far away as possible from what I was dealing with,” said Jardiel Campos, who lamented a lack of personal freedoms in his birth country.

Lis Campos recently graduated from Portland State University. She hopes to work someday overseas, possibly in a U.S. embassy.

“When you have a Cuban passport, it’s hard. They ask you many questions,” she said. “It’s easier to help other people when you’re in a better position of your own.”

After being determined eligible for citizenship, applicants are interviewed and must pass a biometric background screening, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. They must pass tests centered on their knowledge of the English language and civics, as well as their “moral character.” Fees typically add up to hundreds of dollars.

Up to 750,000 people participate in citizenship ceremonies throughout the country each year. Oregon has more than 400,000 foreign-born residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

One of them is Irina Belikova. She met her husband, Yevgeniy Belikova, when he was visiting his parents in Ukraine. He has lived in the U.S. for 23 years, most recently in Portland, and she moved eight years ago before giving birth to their son, Arthur, 4.

Irina Belikova said Oregon’s natural surroundings remind her of home.

“I plan to live here and I like it here,” she said, adding, “It’s not so rainy in my country.”

Many citizenship ceremonies take place at courthouses or other public spaces. The setting at Fort Clatsop was not lost on those in attendance. They took the oath just a few feet from where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark took shelter during a winter as they explored the area. During the ceremony, people dressed in 19th-century garb shot four volleys from muskets.

“It just says America or, really, Oregon,” Jardiel Campos said.

Superintendent Jon Burpee drew a connection between the Corps of Discovery’s journey and that of modern-day immigrants.

“That winter was Lewis and Clark’s American moment, and today, you’re about ready to have your American moment right where they had theirs. Although, speaking with several of you earlier, I know that you traveled much further than Lewis and Clark did,” Burpee said. “It’s fitting that, today, you take your first steps as citizens here in this national park, a park that commemorates a journey.”

Rosin Ortiz’s parents took her to the U.S. from Mexico when she was a toddler. She has lived in the Beaverton area for most of her life. Now 31 years old and working at a naturopathic clinic, Ortiz wanted to join the rest of her family as a citizen.

Penny Edwards and Russ Luloff each had things in Oregon that pulled them down from Canada 20 or more years ago. For Luloff, it was his wife, Melody, whom he met at a Canadian school years ago. For Edwards, it was her job at Salem Hospital.

“I expect to spend the rest of my life here, so I wanted to be able to contribute to the country,” Edwards said.

Ruslan and Tatyana Kovalenko, of Portland, left Ukraine more than 15 years ago. Ruslan Kovalenko works at Five Star Cleaners, a laundry service, while Tatyana Kovalenko is a stay-at-home mom.

“She has a job, taking care of the kids,” said their daughter, Angelika, 11.

The Kovalenkos now join Ruslan’s mother, father, grandmother and grandfather as U.S. citizens.

“I love this country,” he said. “This is a good country.”

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Information from: The Daily Astorian, http://www.dailyastorian.com

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