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Nearly 200 immigrants become citizens at special Independence Day ceremony at Mount Rushmore


KEYSTONE, South Dakota — Nearly 200 immigrants became U.S. citizens this week in the shadow of an American monument during a special Independence Day ceremony at Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services welcomed 196 new citizens from 51 countries Wednesday, The Argus Leader reported ( ). Chief U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Viken presided over the ceremony and U.S. Circuit Judge Robert Gusinsky, who became a citizen himself in 1986, gave a keynote address.

"I am so happy," Ezedeen Mohammed, 31, said again and again. "And so thankful America gave me citizenship and everything for life that is good."

Ten years ago, Mohammed came to the U.S. from Darfur, a place regarded at the time by human rights groups and the United Nations as one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world. Waves of insurgencies and counterinsurgencies killed 480,000 people, and another 2.8 million have been displaced.

Mohammed eventually escaped after being selected in a refugee lottery and is now a meatpacker at John Morrell & Co. in Sioux Falls.

Approximately 7,800 other people will become U.S. citizens this year during more than 95 naturalization ceremonies across the nation from June 30 to July 5.

Emelie Haggerty took her oath of allegiance Wednesday at the Shrine of Democracy in the Black Hills, her family looking on. She had to prove she could speak and write English in addition to demonstrating her knowledge of history and the U.S. government, all tests that she said she passed with ease.

"I know I was born in the Philippines," Haggerty said. "But this where I belong because my family, my children are here. I am American now. And I couldn't happier."

Information from: Argus Leader,

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