‘I’m an American, baby’ — 84 immigrants granted U.S. citizenship

People from 39 countries, including Russia, become American citizens

Gio Silveira had been waiting for this moment for a long time — 22 years, to be exact. Long enough that by the time he was finally granted U.S. citizenship, he'd been able to watch his son grow to the same age he was when he first began his journey to citizenship.

'It's very surreal," Silveria, originally from Uruguay, said. "When I started this process, my son was 2 weeks old. Now he's almost as old as I was when I came to the States."

Many other dreams like Silveria's were turned to reality on Thursday as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the U.S. District Court of Utah naturalized 84 citizenship candidates from 39 different countries at a naturalization ceremony at This Is the Place Heritage Park.

"This is a great day. The sun is shining, you guys are here, smiles on your faces. It's taken you a long time to get here," said Susan Ferrin with Daughters of the American Revolution.

The new citizens listened to speakers welcome them into America, heard the national anthem and recited the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time as American citizens.

After the formalities were out of the way, the crowd rose to hear Michael Martin, a supervisory immigration services officer, make a motion that all candidates be naturalized.

"The motion is granted," U.S. Magistrate Judge Daphne Oberg said.

Silvia Cammack, center, originally from Spain, recites the oath of allegiance along with other new U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony at This Is the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 17.
Silvia Cammack, center, originally from Spain, recites the oath of allegiance along with other new U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony at This Is the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 17. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

"This is a country of immigrants. It's a country made better by immigration," Oberg said. "As new citizens, you bring depth and diversity to this country. You make America more fair. You make America more equal. And now that you're citizens, your job is to share your story and your culture."

The granting of the motion was met with claps, cheers and tears of joy, as the new citizens congratulated each other and embraced family and friends before reciting the Oath of Affirmation.

Silveria decided to immigrate to America and Utah specifically because of his family's affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"We felt we needed to be in the right place, and Utah felt (like) the right place for my family," Silveria said.

He, along with many other new citizens, spoke about how excited they are for the opportunities that citizenship will provide them.

"Hopefully, you know, open a business. The opportunities are endless, so I'm excited to see what I can do," Silveria said when asked what he is most excited about after being named a U.S. citizen.

He added that he practices amateur photography and is hoping to take some classes to further his craft.

Eugenia Belova first moved to America from Russia in 2012 and said that she's "so excited" after a 10-year journey to citizenship.

"I can be the whole part of the United States now because I can vote, I can do many different things," Belova said. "I can work. I can travel a lot."

Belova, whose husband became a U.S. citizen two months earlier, said she's happy to be in a place where people "can be free and be happy," especially considering Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"People didn't have a choice. It's just the situation that happened and people now, they just leave because they can change it," Belova said.

Even though she and her husband are U.S. citizens, Belova is still worried for her family members still in Russia.

Isidro Bautista, originally from Mexico, holds his 6-month-old daughter, Ximena, after Bautista became a U.S. citizen during a naturalization ceremony at This Is the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 17.
Isidro Bautista, originally from Mexico, holds his 6-month-old daughter, Ximena, after Bautista became a U.S. citizen during a naturalization ceremony at This Is the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 17. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
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"My family lives in Russia. I'm worried about my family because I don't know what happens in the future," she said.

Since being in America, Belova earned an English degree from the University of Utah and hopes to work as a journalist in the future.

While in line to receive his certificate of citizenship, Silveria perfectly encapsulated what appeared to be the overwhelming feeling of those being granted citizenship.

"Just happy to be here,” he said. “I'm an American, baby!”

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