For Cuban immigrant Norberto Ricardo and 249 other immigrants, Saturday was a day they’ll never forget.
That’s because at halftime of a Las Vegas Lights soccer match last weekend, those 250 people took to Cashman Field where they saw their dreams of becoming U.S. citizens come true Saturday.
“I came to the U.S. in search of liberty for my family because, as you know, in Cuba we have a dictatorship,” Ricardo said in Spanish. “I always wanted to become a (U.S.) citizen; it was a pending dream that I have now fulfilled.”
Cashman Field employees removed the barriers on the east end of the soccer field to allow the rows of new citizens to walk across the field. District Judge Andrew P. Gordon swore in the new citizens and U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto greeted each one.
This was the second ceremony at a Vegas Lights game, said Katherine Tichacek, who is public affairs officer of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Saturday’s newly minted citizens come from a diverse group. Among them were 48 people from the Philippines, 42 from Mexico, 17 from Cuba and many more from 50 other counties.
Land of opportunity
“In Cuba, dreams are broken,” said Ricardo, who has three boys and a girl. “The youth have no opportunities to grow and finish their dreams. It’s like they don’t have rights there.”
Looking at the new citizens, Cortez Masto said she sees the excitement on their faces and the work that they have put in to earn their citizenship.
She said it is about coming to the U.S. to pursue the American dream to succeed and give their kids every opportunity to succeed.
These opportunities, Cortez Masto said, are why her grandfather and great-grandfather immigrated to the U.S. But the senator noted that coming here doesn’t mean new citizens leave their culture and languages behind.
‘One more dream’
Ricardo noted that he is not done building on his future.
“I have one more dream to fulfill,” he said. “And that’s to become financially free.” Since moving to Las Vegas Ricardo has found work at a casino to help create wealth for his family.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalized fewer than a million new citizens nationwide last year, according to the Homeland Security website. More than 7,000 of those new citizens were in Las Vegas.
The path to citizenship takes at least five years to complete as green card holders to become eligible. The spouse of a U.S. citizen only needs to spend three years as a permanent resident. Most of the naturalizations in Las Vegas are processed within nine months from the time an application is filed, according to Tichacek.
She also praised sports venue citizen naturalization ceremonies such as the one at Saturday’s Lights soccer match.
“Welcoming new citizens at large sports venues also allows thousands of people to witness a naturalization ceremony, understand more about U.S. citizenship, and welcome their new neighbors,” Tichacek said in an email.