On a misty morning amidst the towering coastal redwoods, Redwood National and State Parks welcomed 26 individuals from across the globe as the newest citizens of the United States. The naturalization ceremony, held on July 19th, provided an awe-inspiring backdrop for the applicants, hailing from countries like South Africa, the Philippines, Ukraine, and China, to pledge their allegiance to their new homeland.
Deputy Superintendent Leonel Arguello of Redwood National and State Parks expressed deep honor and pride in hosting this significant event. Addressing the attendees, he stated, “We extend our congratulations and warmest welcome to these new citizens. Our nation’s strength is founded on the immigration of new ideas and culture, and in allowing all citizens to meet their full potential and contribute to this great nation. Like a healthy redwood forest, our nation is enhanced by the diversity, resilience, and strength of its newest members.”
The ceremony provided an extraordinary experience for the new citizens and their families, who were able to celebrate this milestone in one of the most breathtaking locations in the United States. For many, it was their inaugural visit to the majestic park, surrounded by the iconic giants of the redwood forest. The atmosphere was further elevated by the harmonious melodies of the Humboldt Harmonaires, who graced the event with their rendition of the National Anthem.
This auspicious occasion was made possible through the partnership between the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the National Park Service (NPS). In 2006, the two entities signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) aimed at forging connections between new citizens and America’s national parks. The MOU was renewed in 2021, solidifying the commitment to hold special naturalization ceremonies at many of the 425 protected areas within the NPS.
Across the nation, these ceremonies are held in various iconic locations, including Ellis Island, Yosemite National Park, Cesar Chavez National Monument, Acadia National Park, Death Valley National Park, and several Memorial Parks on the National Mall. The renewed MOU further emphasizes collaborative efforts to hold ceremonies at places that symbolize the strength and spirit of the United States while promoting citizenship and naturalization.