RAPID CITY, S.D. - Over 150 people from 58 countries are officially U.S. citizens after taking the oath at Mount Rushmore National Memorial on Thursday.
Marie Pulcherie M'bizi says, "I'm so happy, so, so happy, proud to be American. It was a big journey, but finally ... I made it." Marie is originally from Konga, and now a U.S. citizen. She's just one of about 160 people from 58 countries who were sworn in as new citizens at Mount Rushmore National Memorial Thursday. Marie says she is so proud to be an American, and now she is free to fulfill her dreams.
Irina Lewis is originally from Russia and also happens to be the wife of Rapid City Alderman Chad Lewis. She says the naturalization process was a lengthy one with a lot of paperwork, studying, and interviews, but looking back she says it was a wonderful journey. Irina says, "I'm very grateful and very proud to be an American citizen and I would always say when talking to friends that, you know, in Russia this is how we do things and my country and now I can say this is my country. It feels great."
Just like Irina the other foreign-born citizens could see the finish line Thursday for a new beginning. And the Superintendent of Mount Rushmore Cheryl Schreier says what better place to become a U.S. citizen than at the Shrine of Democracy. Schreier says, "I think it almost goes without saying, but here you are in the backdrop of a beautiful sculpture that Gutzon Borglum carved and really believed in the foundation of our country, the beginning of America and what a perfect place for our new citizens."
Now after going through the naturalization ceremony the new Americans can enjoy nearly all the same benefits, rights and responsibilities that the Constitution gives to native-born citizens, including the right to vote. Last year about 763,000 immigrants were naturalized nationwide, now another 160 people from all over the world begin their American journey.