Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

WE THE PEOPLE.(Final)

Byline: Rick Nathanson * Photographs by Greg Sorber * Of the Journal

This Independence Day, 258 brand-new American citizens celebrate liberty

They came from 52 countries, men and women yearning to be free -- or at least to have a shot at a better life and an American passport.

A large banquet room at the Albuquerque Convention Center was turned into a U.S. district courtroom on a recent weekday afternoon as U.S. District Judge Bruce D. Black presided over a naturalization proceeding in which 258 people took the Oath of Allegiance and became U.S. citizens.

The oath for many was the culmination of a long, often tedious process working through the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The majority of the new citizens were from Mexico, though countries from Afghanistan to Zaire were represented. The oldest of the new citizens was a 78-year-old man from France, and the youngest a 19-year-old man from Vietnam.

Natalie Fitzgerald waited 22 years to become a citizen. "I really want the right to vote," she said, "It's such a privilege."

Originally from South Africa, she was the first female member of the Johannesburg Stock exchange. She came to the United States after being asked to join a group of money managers in New York, where she lived until moving to Santa Fe five years ago. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.