AURORA | For the first time in three years, Coloradans gathered in person to officially become citizens of the United States.
“Today is a very special day,” said Ricardo Gambetta-Alvarado of Aurora’s Office of International and Immigrant Affairs.
Last week’s naturalization ceremony at the Aurora Municipal Center included 50 people from 27 different countries, a figure the City of Aurora is proud of and believes speaks to the city’s diversity.
“One in five residents of Aurora was born outside of the United States,” said Mayor Mike Coffman at the ceremony. “This is part of the fabric of our community and what makes us such a united and welcoming place.”
One of the people participating in today’s ceremony was Audrey Gachire. Coming from her home country of Kenya, she immigrated to Colorado with her mother. Gachire said becoming a citizen was important to her and that she is glad to be an American now.
“Just to be able to see the process of, from not being a citizen to becoming a citizen, is just such an empowering, beautiful experience,” Gachire said. “So, I’m so honored to be here to now be able to call myself a citizen and be able to have rights and freedoms that I did not have prior to taking the citizenship test.”
With a population close to 400,000, Aurora is the state’s third largest city. People of color make up nearly half that population.
Friends and family took pictures of the new citizens during the ceremony, and before everyone was sworn into citizenship, Aurora’s honorary poet Ahja Fox recited a poem.
“This is one of the most important steps for any immigrant who actually wants to be part of the country,” said Gambetta-Alvarado. “Actually, I’m a first generation immigrant and I remember very well over 20 years ago also I became a U.S. citizen, almost at the same week. So this is a very special day for me as well.”
Lukwaii Kohler, originally from Thailand, was also part of the ceremony and couldn’t contain her smile. She told Rocky Mountain PBS she was so proud of herself for passing the citizenship test because it was so challenging.
“For me it’s very hard because English is my second language, so you have to practice very hard to follow the history,” said Kohler. “I’m so excited! Today is so special for me.”