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13 applicants from 11 countries receive American citizenship at South Rim ceremony
"It's been such a journey"

Thirteen applicants from 11 different countries became American citizens at the Grand Canyon Sept. 28. (Erin Ford/WGCN)

Thirteen applicants from 11 different countries became American citizens at the Grand Canyon Sept. 28. (Erin Ford/WGCN)

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — On a windy day in late September, 13 people spoke in unison. Thirteen men and women, speaking in the accents of their homelands, swore an oath of allegiance to the United States before reciting the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time as American citizens.

It was a long journey for some — as long as 15 years — from countries as far as Germany, Afghanistan, Uruguay and El Salvador. Each came to the United States to work, raise families and embrace their American dreams while still maintaining cultural ties and customs that enrich their communities.

Magistrate Judge Camille D. Bibles presided over the ceremony Sept. 28. Applicants from Argentina, Uruguay, Philippines, United Kingdom, Afghanistan, Germany, India, Brazil and El Salvador lined Mather Amphitheater and waited with anticipation — some teared up as they heard the national anthem played by the U.S. Army Band.

Bibles, before officially granting the motion of citizenship, said the cultural richness and ideas brought by immigrants to America is of the greatest importance.

“Your contributions to this country cannot be overstated,” she said.

Maritess and Romualdo Dimaliwat have been waiting almost 15 years to become American citizens. Both educators, they moved from a suburb of Manilla, Philippines, to the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation to teach at the school in 2005.

Maritess described the feeling after the ceremony as overwhelming.

“It’s been such a journey,” Romualdo added. “We moved here straight from the Philippines.”

Now that they’re officially American citizens, the couple has no plans to move. They love teaching at the reservation school in White River and plan to continue raising their family in the community.

Family was what brought Gabrielle Varvel to the United States. Formerly a resident of England, she moved to Lake Havasu City several years ago to be near her children and, now, grandchildren. Her granddaughter was the first to embrace her when the ceremony was over.

Moises Reyes has been living in the United States since he came with his parents from El Salvador as a small child. He became eligible to stay in the United States through the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act (NACARA). NACARA provides a pathway to citizenship for immigrants from Nicaragua, Guatemala or El Salvador who applied for asylum or temporary protected status in the early 1990s.

Reyes is now a truck driver living in Buckeye, Arizona, and his parents are also United States citizens.

Grand Canyon Deputy Superintendent Lisa Carrico summed up the feeling of the day:

“It is my pleasure and truly an honor to welcome all of you here to your national park,” she said. “Grand Canyon has been a cultural crossroads for thousands of years. Today, we are here to recognize and celebrate your journeys. You have come from many places and you will, as those who came before you, enrich our lives, our communities and our nation with what you bring. Today, we are adding you and your stories to the history of the Grand Canyon.”

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