Spread out in a New Haven federal courtroom Thursday, 19 people took the oath, pledging their loyalty to the United States of America. It was the first naturalization ceremony held in person in Connecticut since March of 2020.
“I’m kind of living my own American dream,” said Sonia Infante, who came to the U.S. as a Mexican diplomat 11 years ago and worked for the Mexican consulate in New York.
She said she’s now employed by the City of Waterbury.
“Everybody has a place in this country if you really want to prove who you are,” said Infante.
Luzma De Leon Montano, of Bridgeport, worked for the UN for 30 years. When she retired she knew the time was right to pursue full citizenship.
“I get concerned with issues in the country. They are my issues,” said De Leon Montano.
She said that she’s enjoyed all of the liberties that come with living here except one, which she calls the crown jewel: the right to vote.
“That is my country. I have the right to kind of help in decisions. So, that for me is really important. I feel more like a person now,” she explained.
“A lot of them are coming from countries where not only can they not vote, they can’t even survive,” said Secretary of the State Denise Merrill.
Merrill said the ceremony included people born in Iran, Ukraine, and Peru.
“To see a group of people who are choosing to become American citizens. To vote, to participate in our democracy, to join boards and commissions, to potentially run for office. It’s inspiring,” said New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker.
Infante said she was inspired by her children, who were born on US soil, to change her status.
“I am so excited to give so much to this country that has given me absolutely everything and more,” she said.