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Forty become citizens on July Fourth in Annapolis

For the eighth consecutive year, dozens of people became U.S. citizens during a July Fourth ceremony at the Annapolis estate of a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

"Normally they do this in an office building," said Carrie Kiewitt, a vice president of the Historic Annapolis Foundation.

Forty people from 23 countries took the oath of allegiance Thursday in the garden of the William Paca House, not far from Maryland's Capitol. It was one of more than 100 naturalization ceremonies planned for this week in special locations, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

"It's fitting we have a naturalization ceremony here" on Independence Day, said Robert Clark, president and CEO of Historic Annapolis. After all, Paca "himself became an American citizen on this day" 237 years ago, Clark said.

Ludmila Mikhailova, Historic Annapolis' chief financial officer, was among those taking the oath Thursday.

"It's a great honor to become a citizen on the Fourth of July in such a historic place," said Mikhailova, 38, the last member of her immediate family to become a U.S. citizen. She and her husband moved from Latvia to the U.S. in the late 1990s and had two children here, she said. Her husband was naturalized in 2009.

Mikhailova, who like other candidates was beaming before the ceremony, had a personal connection to the proceedings: "Robert Clark is my boss and he's emcee of the ceremony. How cool is that?"

It's energizing, she said, to know that she can now take part in the American political process. Instead of "just screaming at the TV" when she disagrees with politicians, she'll be able to express her point of view at the ballot box, she said.

Jamaica had a handful of representatives in the crowd of new citizens. There were also people from France, Peru, Ethiopia, Poland and Turkey, among other countries, declaring their fidelity to the United States.

"I'm going to go get a beer and enjoy the rest of the day," said Gareth Ainsworth, 27, who described himself as "pumped" after he was handed his citizenship certificate.

Ainsworth was born in the United Kingdom and now lives in Bowie. He met his wife while she was serving with the U.S. military in England. He decided to earn an expedited route to citizenship by joining the Army National Guard. He wore his uniform to the ceremony.

Another guardsman, Dolton Goolcharan, a 28-year-old from Trinidad, said he was headed home to Northwest Baltimore following the ceremony to celebrate the way many Americans do on July Fourth — he was hosting a cookout.

"It's an achievement a lot of people want and few get the opportunity," Goolcharan said of his naturalization.

Other unique locales hosting citizenship ceremonies this week include Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Charlottesville, Va., the Battleship Missouri Memorial at Pearl Harbor and Crater Lake National park in Crater Lake, Ore. Four minor league baseball stadiums were holding ceremonies before games, the immigration service said.

In all, at least 7,800 people were scheduled to become citizens this week.

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