Editor’s Note: Maria Pia Negro, a graduate student at the University of Maryland who is working as an intern with Catholic News Service this summer, had a big day this week and shared her story.
By Maria Pia Negro
Catholic News Service
I observed World Refugee Day on Wednesday by becoming a citizen of the United States.
Holding folders with our Peruvian passports, green cards and flashcards with 100 civic knowledge questions, my sister and I walked into the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services building in Baltimore with excitement and anxiety.
It might have seemed like a formality but being ready to pledge allegiance to the country that was my home for the past seven years was a big deal to me. Immigrating to America a year before finishing high school was not my decision, but this was.
The road that followed our arrival was full of surprises and blessings in disguise.
Rather than turning my back on the country that saw me grow, by becoming an American citizen I’m embracing the place that helped me become an adult and allowed my parents to offer us a hopeful future.
We passed the test!
At 2 p.m., I was sworn in with about 50 other immigrants and refugees; my sister changed her legal name so her naturalization ceremony will be later. “The Star Spangled Banner” took on a whole different meaning. And some of the people surrounding us were either smiling or crying out of emotion when facing the flag.
(Something that I love about going to these ceremonies, my mother’s a year ago and my own, is seeing how many people from all parts of the world come here and want to be part of this country. And this country wants them back.)
You could see the excitement in many of their faces. I was so excited that I filled out my voter registration card on the car ride back to the CNS office. My colleagues at CNS were so happy for me; they made me feel at home.