About 30 people from 20 countries across the globe will spend their first moments as United States citizens at Congaree National Park near Columbia.
They take their oath of allegiance at a naturalization ceremony Friday morning.
Jaclyn Williams, Field Office Director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said having the naturalization ceremonies at national parks helps enhance the stature of ceremonies within the community. Members of the community are invited to attend to welcome their new fellow citizens.
“They’ve been seat aside for public enjoyment and so oftentimes the parks are historic in nature,” she said. “They’re beautiful. They’re scenic and so they provide a great backdrop for a citizenship ceremony.”
Williams said about 4,000 people in South Carolina are naturalized every year. They are processed through offices in Greer and Charleston. Most of the ceremonies occur at those offices, or sometimes schools, universities or libraries.
“While we love going to the national parks and having our ceremonies there, likewise the newest citizens are really appreciative of the opportunity to be able to have such a memorable place for their ceremony and this often starts a journey where they go back to the park or start exploring other national parks throughout the country,” Williams said.
Upon taking the oath of allegiance, new citizens watch a video presentation from President Trump and receive a certificate of naturalization.
Williams said her office hopes to have ceremonies at other national parks. She said the new citizens enjoy the sites and often return to visit.
“I think anytime someone takes an oath of allegiance it’s obviously meaningful to them,” she said. “But it’s not unusual when we’re at these national parks for people to sort of go out of their way to really thank us for the opportunity to visit such a special place.”
The ceremony is at 10 a.m. at Congaree National Park in Hopkins.