Naturalization ceremony in Daley Plaza results in 63 new U.S. citizens

“This is the first step in achieving most of the goals I’ve set for myself,” said Sharon Celestine, 20, who came to Chicago from Nigeria.

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Daniel Camacho, center, 39, who was born in Mexico, is one of more than 60 people from 32 different countries to take the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony, completing the process of becoming a U.S. citizen, Tuesday at Illinois’ 12th annual U.S. Constitution & Citizenship Day Celebration in Daley Plaza.

Daniel Camacho (center), 39, who was born in Mexico, is one of more than 60 people from 32 countries to become U.S. citizens Tuesday in Daley Plaza. Camacho says he is excited about being able to take part in elections.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Lots of exciting stuff happens in Daley Plaza: marching band battles, Christkindlmarkets, the filming of movies like “The Blues Brothers” and “The Fugitive.”

But few events generate more excitement among participants than the naturalization ceremony that took place there Tuesday and resulted in 63 new Americans.

“This is the first step in achieving most of the goals I’ve set for myself,” said Sharon Celestine, 20, who moved to the South Side seven years ago from Nigeria.

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She serves in the Army National Guard and is studying aviation management at Southern Illinois University. Her dream is to be a pilot, serve the nation and perhaps fly people commercially one day, too.

Becoming a citizen is key to her plans.

“There’s some programs that I’m trying to look at to be able to fly, and I can’t do it without becoming a citizen due to security issues, so having this opportunity today will be awesome for my future in the long run,” she said.

When she arrived in the States with her mom, a nurse, and her younger brother, they lived with a relative before moving to Wheeling.

“At first, life felt like ‘I’m in the TV,’” she said, noting that much of what she knew of the United States came from watching American television shows.

“My mom said she wanted a better life for us, and I do appreciate her bringing us here,” she said.

Sharon Celestine, 20, who moved to the South Side seven years ago from Nigeria, smiles after taking the oath of citizenship. She is in the Army National Guard and attends Southern Illinois University.

Sharon Celestine, 20, who moved to the South Side seven years ago from Nigeria, smiles after taking the oath of citizenship. She is in the Army National Guard and attends Southern Illinois University.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Manasi Hajra, 42, is from India originally and was struck when she moved here in 2013 by how safe she felt as a single woman in the United States, to the point where she went out by herself at night — something she wouldn’t have done in India — and relished eating ice cream at 2 a.m. 

“Everyone follows the rules here,” said Hajra, a software engineer who lives in Schaumburg with her husband and two kids.

Daniel Camacho, 39, a truck driver from Garfield Ridge who’s from Mexico originally, said he was excited to take part in elections.

“Voting is the way to express my opinion,” said Camacho, who has two kids and one on the way.

Immigrants who become United States citizens are like the Picasso in Daley Plaza, said Rebecca R. Pallmeyer, the city’s top federal judge, who presided over the ceremony. 

“When this sculpture was unveiled, people weren’t crazy about it. Many people asked ‘What is it?’” she said, imploring participants to look over their shoulders and check out the Picasso.

“But very quickly it became a beloved Chicago landmark ... and so it is with many new citizens,” she said.

“You may feel uncomfortable at first, and perhaps you won’t feel as warmly welcomed as you should be, but very quickly you will become part of the fabric of this nation and this city,” she said. 

The event marked U.S. Constitution & Citizenship Day. This year’s celebration marked the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.

Dagmawit Feleke, center, 34, who was born in Ethiopia, applauds after she and more than 60 other people from 32 different countries took the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony, completing the process of becoming a U.S. citizen, Tuesday at Illinois’ 12th annual U.S. Constitution & Citizenship Day Celebration in Daley Plaza.

Dagmawit Feleke, 34, was born in Ethiopia. She joined more than 60 others from 32 countries at Illinois’ 12th annual U.S. Constitution & Citizenship Day celebration in Daley Plaza.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois John Lausch speaks Tuesday during lllinois’ 12th annual U.S. Constitution & Citizenship Day Celebration in Daley Plaza in the Loop.

John Lausch, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, addresses the gathering. This year marks the 235th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Chief Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer, of the Northern District of Illinois, presides over a naturalization ceremony Tuesday during lllinois’ 12th annual U.S. Constitution & Citizenship Day Celebration in Daley Plaza.

Chief Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer of the Northern District of Illinois presides over the naturalization ceremony.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

More than 60 people from 32 different countries take the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony, completing the process of becoming a U.S. citizen, Tuesday at Illinois’ 12th annual U.S. Constitution & Citizenship Day Celebration in Daley Plaza.

More than 60 people from 32 countries take the Oath of Allegiance Tuesday during a naturalization ceremony, completing the process of becoming U.S. citizens at Illinois’ 12th annual U.S. Constitution & Citizenship Day celebration in Daley Plaza.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

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