The first thing Hadeel Mati did when she officially became a naturalized citizen of the United States was register to vote. “I felt like after 10 years in this country I have the right to say what …
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The first thing Hadeel Mati did when she officially became a naturalized citizen of the United States was register to vote.
“I felt like after 10 years in this country I have the right to say what I think,” Mati said.
The Iraqi native came to the U.S. by way of the United Kingdom and married her husband. They both live in Arvada now.
Mati was one of 194 people who became naturalized U.S. citizens Sept. 25 at Centennial Center Park, which is near the Centennial office for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. In all, 61 countries were represented. It was the largest USCIS naturalization ceremony in Colorado since 2009, according to USCIS public affairs officials. Kristi Goldinger, the district director for the USCIS Denver Field Operations Directorate, announced the office will have naturalized close to 13,000 U.S. citizens in 2019.
Just north of where the ceremony was held, representatives from the Colorado Secretary of State's office helped the new citizens register to vote.
“I feel so powerful to be an American citizen,” Mati said. “I felt I have more options to say (what I want) — more freedom.”
Vinad Chandran, who lives in Arapahoe County, moved to the United States from India in 1997. He decided to finally become a naturalized citizen to help his family and his career, as well as have the ability to speak his mind.
“I've already been involved in the community here, but I think this puts a formal touch to it. It's time for me to take that extra step,” Chandran said. “When you say 'freedom of speech' 'freedom of religion'… (in India) it's got a different meaning. It's really meant here. My heart is still there, but I think things will change now that I can speak freely and speak my mind.”
Maria Garton, of Colombia, lives in Castle Rock with her husband and daughter and has lived in the United States for nine years.
“I'm just very excited to be part of the country and have a voice and an opinion about our democracy,” Gaton said. “This county has given me a lot of opportunities.”
Naturalization is the process of becoming a U.S. citizen after the person completes the requirements established in the Immigration and Nationality Act. Foreign immigrants can qualify for naturalization if they have been a resident for at least five years (three years for to file as a spouse of a U.S. citizen), have served in the U.S. military or have a child whose parent is a U.S. citizen. For more information, visit USCIS.gov.
In 2017, the Denver USCIS office completed 7,600 naturalization applications and 9,400 in 2018. The Denver office's average processing cycle time for naturalization is roughly 13 months. Statewide, the processing cycle is about seven months.
The Denver USCIS office released a statement on the Sept. 25 ceremony:
“The Denver Field Office has demonstrated its commitment to the naturalization process by achieving exceptional results to address an increase in pending applications … We're very proud of our accomplishments, and we will continue to work for the American people to administer our national lawful immigration system and protect its integrity.”
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