By Curt Yeomans
One hundred people from across metropolitan Atlanta will celebrate the nation's 233rd birthday by becoming naturalized American citizens during a private ceremony scheduled for today in Morrow.
The Atlanta office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a branch of the federal government's Department of Homeland Security, will oversee the ceremony. It is planned for today at the Morrow-based National Archives at Atlanta.
"U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will administer the Oath of Allegiance to America's newest citizens during a special naturalization ceremony at the amphitheater of the National Archives South East Region," the immigration service's spokesperson, Ana Santiago, said in a prepared statement. "The naturalization ceremony is part of a series of ceremonies being held this week around the country."
It will be the second time the archives has hosted a naturalization ceremony. It hosted a naturalization ceremony last August, according to James McSweeney, the National Archives' southeast region director and head of its Atlanta facility. McSweeney said another naturalization ceremony has been scheduled at the archives to take place on Constitution Day, which is Sept. 17.
"Family, genealogy, citizenship and democracy - those are cornerstones of our mission here at the National Archives, so this is a natural fit for us," McSweeney said.
In addition to the 100 soon-to-be citizens, at least 150 family members are expected to attend the ceremony this weekend, McSweeney said. He said the area where the ceremony will take place is not large enough to host unexpected guests.
In order to be eligible for naturalized citizenship, a person must be at least 18, and have been a permanent resident for three to five years, depending on whether the person is married to a U.S. citizen, according to Citizenship and Immigration Services' "Guide to Naturalization." A person can also apply for naturalized citizenship if he or she has served in the U.S. armed forces for at least one year.
The guide also states that anyone who served in the U.S. military during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, or after Sept. 11, 2001, is not required to be a permanent resident before becoming a naturalized citizen.
Anyone seeking to become a naturalized citizen must also have "good moral character" and demonstrate a knowledge of the English language and U.S. government. Examples of poor moral character, according to the guide, include:
· Committing a crime against another person with the intent of harming that individual.
· Persecuting people on the basis of their race, religion, political opinion, social group or national origin.
· Being convicted of at least two crimes which carry sentences of five years or more.
· Not completing probation, parole or a suspended sentence before applying for naturalization.
· Not making court-mandated child support or alimony payments.
· Telling falsehoods in order to obtain immigration benefits.
· Acts of terrorism.
· Illegal gambling.
· "Habitual drunkenness."
People who are applying to become naturalized citizens must pay the Department of Homeland Security $675 in fees to have their application filed and to have their fingerprints taken, according to the "Guide to Naturalization."
During naturalization ceremonies like the one scheduled to take place at the National Archives, those becoming a naturalized citizen will take an oath of allegiance and receive a certificate, which serves as the person's proof of U.S. citizenship.
As part of the oath, potential naturalized citizens must "renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty," along with any hereditary titles the new citizen previously held, according to the naturalization guidebook.
The oath-takers also must pledge to support the U.S. Constitution against any of the nation's enemies, by bearing arms on the county's behalf, or by performing noncombatant service in the U.S. military.
Santiago said more than 1 million people became naturalized citizens of the U.S. during fiscal year 2008.