Three Grain Valley residents were among 100 welcomed as new U.S. citizens during a ceremony hosted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the U.S. District Court Western District of Missouri at the Kansas City Public Library’s downtown Central Branch on Tuesday, November 15th.
Ana Laura Best, Gabe Cross, and Thalia Celina Orendain Ortiz were among the 100 candidates originating from 39 countries who participated in Tuesday's ceremony.
For Gabe Cross, who came to the United States with his family at age 16 from Australia, his citizenship journey began in earnest with his marriage to his wife Grace. Cross moved from Brisbane, Australia in 2015 with his family, settling in Nashville. Cross met his wife in Nashville and the couple settled in Grain Valley, as her family resides in the area.
Cross works in the creative field, working in social media and photography for Kansas City's MADE MOBB, and loves the vibrant creative community in the area. "They are all about supporting each other," Cross said.
Speaking with Cross prior to the ceremony, he said it felt like a "monumental moment" in his life and was proud to become a U.S. citizen.
For Ana Laura Best, originally from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, it was a chance meeting at church that brought her to the United States.
Her future husband was visiting the church as part of a missionary group, and the two met in the cafeteria as she helped her mother in the kitchen.
"The whole thing has been God’s plan," Best said.
"You've heard the phrase, 'Tell Him your plans, and he will laugh', and this is true. I had no intention of coming to the United States, and had dreamed of traveling to Italy. But God had a plan. Now, here I am in the United States, married to an American," Best quipped.
Best and her future husband kept in contact for about a year after they met and then began traveling back and forth to visit each other. After they married, Best began the process to become a citizen.
"The hardest part (of the visa process) was the 1-year waiting period when you cannot travel outside the country. It was hard not being able to see my parents."
Best also said the process to find employers to take a chance on someone with a green card or work visa can be daunting. Best found work with First American Title and has worked with the company for two years. She praised her boss for the opportunity.
"I'm really grateful for her," Best said.
While she had heard stories about how difficult the interview process as a part of the citizenship requirements would be, Best said she had the opposite experience.
"The officers were really kind, and the process was quick. They were really nice. It was such a blessing, and the opposite of what many told us it was."
Best said Tuesday's ceremony was "pretty emotional".
"One of the speakers commented that even though we were becoming citizens of the United States, you do not forget about where you come from. You keep your roots. You may have come to different country, but you still are who you are. No matter where you are. I kept this in my heart."
Thalia Celina Orendain Ortiz, originally from Jalisco, Mexico, came to the United States in 2012 with her husband Adrian Armenta.
"We made the decision to enter the U.S.A. with the hope of being able to have a better quality of life, a permanent job, and a more stable economic solvency. In short, we were looking for the American dream," Ortiz said.
"After living in this country for 10 years, with my 2 children Adrian and Emmanuel and my husband, who are now American citizens, I decided to choose the U.S.A. as my country, and not because I felt excluded. On the contrary, my roots and my language have never been a reason to feel discriminated against, each inhabitant here makes me feel part of them, they make me feel at home."
"I made the decision to become a citizen one year ago. Actually the process is super easy and fast, although due to my little knowledge of English, it was a bit difficult for me to study the questions, but nothing is impossible, because I finally made it. I chose this country, and this country accepted me with open arms, and I admit it, it was exciting to see so many people at the ceremony. 100 people, 39 countries and one dream come true for each of us."
John Herron, library chief executive, gave opening remarks at the ceremony and spoke to the importance of active engagement as citizens.
"The promise of America works only with an active and engaged citizenry. It is now part of your responsibility to ensure that the ideal remains valid for every citizen. It is no small obligation. But it is required to ensure that you and your children get access to the benefits of our national system," Herron said.
U.S. Bankruptcy Chief Judge Brian T. Fenimore presided, and Paige Wymore-Wynn, court executive, administered the Oath of Allegiance. Denesha Snell, library board member, delivered congratulatory remarks to the newly minted citizens.
The citizenship candidates originated from 39 countries: Afghanistan, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Congo (Kinshasa), Cuba, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Finland, France, the Gambia, Ghana, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, India, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Samoa, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Thailand, the United Kingdom, Venezuela and Vietnam.
USCIS.gov provides information and resources for those considering U.S. citizenship. Specificallyuscis.gov/tools and uscis.gov/citizenship. Other resources can be found at the USCIS YouTube page, including the “Applying for Citizenship Online” video that helps someone fill out the online application to become a U.S. citizen. Those preparing for the civics test can practice by downloading the USCIS Civics Test Study tools app.
Tuesday's ceremony can be viewed online at :
Ana Best, with husband Cody Best and daughters Allisa and Milena. Photo credit: Ana Best
Grain Valley resident Thalia Celina Orendain Ortiz, originally from Jalisco, Mexico, became a citizen Tuesday during the ceremony held at the downtown branch of the Kansas City Public Library. Photo credit: Thalia Celina Orendain Ortiz