Mount Rushmore holds first naturalization ceremony since 2018

MT. RUSHMORE, S.D. — Every year, some 860,000 U.S. green card holders apply for citizenship by naturalization – and what better place to become a citizen than Mount Rushmore!

The Mt. Rushmore Amphitheater was packed Monday with supporters of the new citizens – 55 immigrants from 29 countries and several military members. They were given the opportunity to introduce themselves and announce their countries of origin. Several even used the time to express their gratitude and love for America. For some, it was just a matter of time.

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One woman met her husband when he was stationed in England with the Air Force. She has spent 37 of her 42 married years living in the US…32 of those in the Rapid City area.

“My husband has been coaxing me for many many years, and I kept saying “but honey, I‘m still working on the accent”,” said Valerie Rhodes. “But one day last summer we were sitting on out patio, and he said “Val, if something happened to me, what would you do’ and I said, I‘d stay here, it’s my home. And he said, well, soo? So I guess I‘m going to start some paperwork.”

A man from the Netherlands also came for love, although it didn’t last long.

“I stuck it out and stuck and around,” said Julian Hogervorst. “And the people around me helped me get through this and pushed me to keep staying here and get the American dream, and finally get the citizenship done. For me, it’s like a final step after all the things I’ve been through. Just as a final, almost like a certificate, diploma of getting there, and finally reaching that goal that I‘ve set out for myself to get.”

For others, it was more than time and love. It was a matter of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Joseph family from Pakistan came to the United States to escape religious persecution, and practice their Christian faith freely. 

“We fled our country 2011,” said Bishop Joseph. And we were in exile in another country four years. It’s really, life was very dangerous. So we got home, in America, and I believe that this is the country giving me and my family great opportunities to live here and follow the law, and bless the country, and bless God.”

Bishop received his citizenship alongside his wife Ruth, and son Aaroon, and is excited for his daughter, Meerab to receive her citizenship shortly. Despite the timing and reasons, many can say it is a day they will forever be grateful for and will never forget.


Categories: ConnectCenter1-Events, Local News, South Dakota News