Twenty-two Wyoming residents became U.S. citizens Monday afternoon in the first naturalization ceremony hosted in Albany County in at least 25 years.
The new citizens, ranging from ages 19-50, came to Laramie from all over Wyoming and represented 12 nationalities: Benin, Brazil, Canada, Guinea-Bissau, Jamaica, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Russia and Vietnam.
Mexico had the largest representation, with seven of the new citizens having originally come from the U.S.’ southern neighbor.
Laramie resident Rida Fatima, who’s starting her second year as a University of Wyoming medical student, was among those who became U.S. citizens at the ceremony.
The 24-year-old moved from Pakistan to Rock Springs with her family about 16 years ago when her dad took a job in Wyoming. Naveed moved to Laramie six years ago to begin her undergraduate degree.
Fatima followed in the footsteps of her mother, Farida Naveed, who attended Monday’s ceremony and became a U.S. citizen in October.
“We’re just really blessed because we were able to come here originally on a visa for work,” Fatima said. “I know a lot of other people who don’t have that opportunity and it’s a lot harder to get to this point. It’s also just such a privilege to do this in Laramie — in a town I call home.”
Fatima said the process of becoming a citizen started 11 years ago.
“It’s a long process,” said Naveed. “You’re checking your email every day, waiting for it all to get approved.”
Albany County District Court Judge Tori Kricken presided over the ceremony, leading the new citizens in the Oath of Allegiance and the Pledge of Allegiance. She also recited an excerpt from a speech former President Barack Obama gave during a naturalization ceremony at the National Archives in 2015.
“I congratulate you all on becoming citizens of the United States of America,” Kricken said. “We welcome each and every one of you. Thank you for letting me share this truly historic day with you.”
Local elected officials also attended the ceremony, including Albany County Commissioner Pete Gosar, County Attorney Peggy Trent, County Assessor Grant Showacre, County Clerk Jackie Gonzales, County Treasurer Tracy Fletcher, Laramie City Council member Erin O’Doherty and Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie.
U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi, as well as U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, also sent representatives to attend the ceremony.
The local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter also gave the new citizens gift bags containing a copy of the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Flag Code, a U.S. flag, the American Creed and other items.
Albany County Clerk of District Court Stacy Lam organized Laramie’s first naturalization ceremony in more than two decades after a representative from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services attended a meeting of the Wyoming Clerk of District Courts Association to explain the process of naturalization and the role of courts in that process.
“Some of the clerks started talking about the ceremony and we thought it would be fun to start doing it,” Lam said.
She eventually approached Kricken about the possibility, and the judge was “very excited about it,” Lam said.
“We thought it would be a good thing, especially in Laramie,” Lam said. “We assumed that, because of the university, there would be a whole lot of people here going through the process, and it would be a convenient thing to have in this corner of the state.”