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Dozens of people become America's newest citizens in Santa Monica Mountains ceremony

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KCLU
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40 people officially became U.S. citizens in a ceremony in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area Thursday.

40 people from nine countries around the world take citizenship oath in ceremony at National Recreation Area's King Gillette Ranch.

It’s the day when the dreams of dozens of people came true.

"I'm real excited. I'm so proud to be a part of this country, of this land," said Roberto Rodriguez. The Van Nuys man just took the Oath of Allegiance to officially become a U.S. citizen.

The Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area teamed up with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to host a naturalization ceremony Thursday at the Recreation Area’s King Gillette Ranch.

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KCLU
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It was the first time the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area hosted a citizenship event.

Robert Sanders is Director of the Immigration Agency’s San Fernando Valley Field Office.

"We have the privilege of naturalizing 40 new citizens today, from nine different countries." said Sanders. "Mexico, Russian. Iran, Guatemala...a litany of countries."

Jeleide Ibagy of Valencia is one of the new citizens. She’s originally from Brazil.

"Excited, because now you can stay, and do all the things you are supposed to do, like vote," said Ibagy.

Rodriguez says becoming a U.S. citizen is the end of a journey which started more than two decades ago, in his native Central America.

"So proud, this is the miracle from my mom. She is in heaven right now," said Rodriguez. "Because of her, we left El Salvador, and came here."

The outdoor event took place with a spectacular background, the Santa Monica Mountains. David Szymanski is Superintendent of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

"As new citizens, there's a perk you get. You become the owner of our National Park System," said Szymanski.

The ceremony was brief, but it was filled with firsts. For the 40 people taking part, it was the first time they would recite the Pledge of Allegiance as American citizens, and sing the national anthem.

Organizers say they’re grateful that the pandemic has eased to the point where they can have ceremonies like this to allow the new citizens, and their families to gather to celebrate the big event.