451 people recently became United States citizens at a naturalization ceremony at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas.
Jhenny Michalek, a Manassas resident from El Salvador who became a citizen with her mother last year, attended the ceremony to watch her own father become a citizen.
According to Michalek, the size of ceremony was far larger than usual.
“It’s a lot more than [normal] – it’s normally like 40 people. So just the sheer volume of it was extra impressive to me,” said Michalek.
During the ceremony, the U.S. Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) showed a video to the crowd of other naturalization ceremonies across the country, and had everyone sing the Star Spangled Banner and take the oath of citizenship in unison.
“They called out the different countries and people would stand when their country was called. And they asked all of the friends and family to really cheer on the different countries,” said Michalek.
Michalek spoke about the ups and downs related to becoming a U.S. citizen.
“I know that a lot of people filed for their citizenship and it’s taken long periods of time. And it seems like this past year they’re like ‘Okay, we want a three-month turnaround’. And they’re getting people in, processing them…it’s bam, bam, bam. It’s no longer like five years, four years to go through the process,” said Michalek, continuing, “You’re in limbo when you put your paperwork in. For example, for me, I put in my paperwork and because it was processed fast enough, I did not have to renew my resident alien card. So there were some people when it was taking longer – you put in all your paperwork, then your residency expires – the card expires – and you have to pay $400 to have that renewed in addition to the $1,000 you’re paying for your citizenship.”
While Michalek and her mother’s paperwork went through quickly, that wasn’t the case for her father, which caused great anxiety for the family.
“Mine and my mom’s went through in three or four months, it went quickly. My dad’s took almost a whole year and we were so worried and just ‘Oh my goodness, is there something wrong with his papers,’” said Michalek.
Michalek expressed pride in being a U.S. citizen, and said that she’s relieved her family is now done with the process.