Dozens of new United States citizens attended a naturalization ceremony in Sioux Falls on Wednesday. Pandemic safety precautions mean the ceremonies are smaller than usual, but the occasion is still a source of pride for new Americans.
Four ceremonies marked the citizenship of 55 people from 24 different countries. Each group took the Oath of Allegiance in a conference room that overlooked the Big Sioux River in downtown Sioux Falls. As temperatures reached 100 degrees, family members stood outside and watched from the other side of a large window.
Jeffrey Beil is a supervisory immigration services officer. He explains the limited capacity.
“Part of our safety protocol is we try to maintain social distancing and following CDC guidelines,” he says. “So in order to maintain that social distancing it limits the capacity of any space we occupy, whether it’s a naturalization ceremony or our field office.”
One of the new citizens is Aiveen Martin. She now lives in Rapid City after immigrating from the United Kingdom. Her husband waited in the car during the ceremony, and she had to turn other loved ones away.
“I had promised a friend of mine that she could come along, but then when I got the invitation, it was no people to accompany you,” she explains.
Despite the limited audience, Martin says she felt a deep sense of pride as she stood and raised her right hand.
“When I was making the oath of allegiance, you’re thinking about your original country and your new country and how it would make you really proud to be asked to do these things.”
The oath includes renouncing foreign allegiances and supporting the U.S. Constitution. But Martin is most excited about another civic duty:
“Being able to vote is probably the most important thing,” she says. “Being able to take a full part rather than just discussing.”
South Dakota has welcomed nearly a thousand new citizens in similar ceremonies since last June.