The Sept. 17 ceremony was held on Constitution Day.
“What I want you to consider as you obtain your citizenship today is to share your values, share your culture, your experience, your diversity,” said Edward Melton, director of the Harris County Public Library, during the ceremony. “Understand your influence and your ability to take advantage of all freedoms that we’ve been offered through the rights of being a citizen that is established by the U.S. Constitution.”
LSC-Tomball and the LSC-Tomball Community Library hosted the naturalization ceremony, an initiative Tomball Library Director Janna Hoglund said came out of growing citizenship programs at the Tomball library.
Susan Howard, the literacy coordinator for the LSC-Tomball Community Library, said she learned the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Houston Field Office was looking for more venues across Harris County to hold naturalization ceremonies, and from there, the Tomball ceremony was in the works, building upon what citizenship classes the library already offered.
“We’re basically helping our residents who live nearby or who would like to visit our library or use our online services to help them to get to the naturalization level, to get their citizenship,” Hoglund said in an interview.
Howard said as candidates must be proficient in English to pursue citizenship, the library offers English as a second language and 12-week citizenship test prep courses at no cost. Upon passing the citizenship test, candidates may attend a naturalization ceremony like the one held in Tomball to take an oath of allegiance.
Howard said she has seen more interest in the classes the last few years, growing by word of mouth, resulting in a need for more tutors at the library to coach classes. Howard said she teaches two ESL classes online and one citizenship class online.
“From that citizenship class this year, I have five new citizens. I’m so proud of them,” she said.
During the Sept. 17 ceremony, citizenship candidates represented 25 countries. Countries included Argentina, Bangladesh, Canada, Columbia, Cuba, Egypt, El Salvador, Germany, Honduras, India, Mexico, Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, Spain, United Kingdom, Venezuela and Vietnam, among others, according to a call of countries by Bertha Johnson, Section Chief of the USCIS Houston Field Office.
“Citizenship brings with it so many privileges and responsibilities; it is my duty to remind you that as an American, you will be held to the highest standards of accountability for your actions—for freedom is not free. I only ask that you choose to participate fully in the civic institutions,” Johnson said during the ceremony. “Register to vote; make your voices heard, and volunteer your time and energy to improve your community. ... I am confident that with your effort, we can make this a more perfect union.”
In addition to citizenship candidates taking an oath of allegiance, community partners also participated in the ceremony. Students from Tomball High School’s Naval JROTC presented the flags; the national anthem was sung by Lisa Morales, chair of the LSC-Tomball music department; and attendees were served cake donated by H-E-B.
“It’s becoming a collaborative effort by the Tomball community, and we are very much excited to welcome new American citizens. ... [To think these candidates will] go through such an important step and moment in their life and that will be happening in Tomball,” Hoglund said in an interview ahead of the ceremony.
While the ceremony was a first for Tomball, Hoglund said she hopes to continue working with USCIS to host future naturalization ceremonies.
“America will be enriched by your citizenship,” Tomball Mayor Lori Klein Quinn said in her keynote address during the ceremony. “Even though you renounced your former citizenship and pledged your loyalty to the United States, you do not give up your own history; you do not give up your own culture. Those things you cherish from your past. ... Today you become a part of something great—America—and today America becomes more complete because of all of you.”