With a view of South Lake Union on a cloudy Tuesday, 28 people became U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony tucked away in a meeting room on the ground floor of the Museum of History & Industry.
Before the oath, officials read aloud the 15 countries represented, each person standing up when their homeland was called. When they sat down after pledging their allegiance to the United States, they did so as American citizens.
Family members and friends applauded and cheered, with several waving miniature American flags as their loved ones took the final step in what for many is a multiyear process of obtaining permanent U.S. residency and citizenship.
The ceremony — which honored Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month — featured as a keynote speaker Boeing production test pilot Jaclyn Poon, who became a citizen herself nearly two decades ago after emigrating from Hong Kong.
“Some of you may have come from fleeing harsh economic conditions or unstable governments … ,” Poon said to the new U.S. citizens, who hailed from countries including Canada, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Russia and Somalia.
“Whatever your unique background and personal experiences are, I want you to know that this day is close to my heart.”
Ava Mallari, who immigrated to Washington from the Philippines in 2015, said she became unexpectedly emotional when U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials played a recorded video from President Joe Biden. In the video, Biden said all immigrants have different journeys and reasons for immigrating but share in having courage to leave their homes and loved ones to come to the U.S. in search of a better life.
Biden’s address resonated with Mallari, 41, who has been living in Washington away from her three kids and partner in the Philippines. While social media helps her stay connected with her family, Mallari said she last saw her children in 2017, two years after she immigrated to the U.S.
That sacrifice, she said, will be worth it when she’s able to bring her partner and children to the U.S.
Mallari said she’s also excited to travel abroad and visit European countries.
“I’ve fulfilled the American dream,” she said. “It’s the most coveted citizenship. There’s rarely any country that won’t accept a blue passport.”
Growing up near the Clark Air Base near Angeles City, Mallari said American culture and brands like Campbell Soup and Dial soap were considered glamorous.
Now she lives in North Seattle, where she works at Neighborcare Health, which serves undocumented or low-income people, and paddleboards and hosts barbecues in her free time. She also recently earned a master’s degree in health care administration.
Elaine Yin, 35, who moved to the U.S. from China’s Jiangsu province in 2017, said she’s looking forward to casting her first vote as a U.S. citizen. Her husband’s family often debates local and national politics, she said, and her first political event was a Bernie Sanders rally in Tacoma.
“I was really excited. I started to read a lot about Bernie and policies and I realized, ‘Wow, this is a person I want to support,'” she said of the progressive politician.
As a teacher at a Mandarin immersion school in Bellevue, Yin said she specifically wanted to participate in a citizenship ceremony honoring AANHPI Heritage Month.
She’s been teaching her students about the foods and customs of other Asian cultures, as well as Asian people who have made significant contributions to society.
“I hope I can make some impact, too, and I can leave footprints in history if possible,” Yin said.
Editor’s note: Out of concern for those involved in this story and their loved ones, the comment thread has been removed.