IT’S OFFICIAL: Area children become US citizens

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Smiles were in no short supply on Friday when 42 children from 23 countries received certificates of U.S. citizenship at the Citizenship and Immigration Services building in Centennial.

Families from Australia, Mexico, Israel, India, Iraq, Haiti, Ghana and several other countries gathered in their Sunday best for the ceremony.

However, interpretations of “Sunday best” varied widely for the diverse crop, from collared shirts and dresses to colorful, customary headwraps.

Even Debbie Cannon, a spokesperson for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, came adorned in full red, white and blue garb and a headband topped with springing stars.

“I wear red, white and blue for every ceremony,” she said. “But this is for the kids.”

CIS hosts several special ceremonies a year for families and immigrant children going through the citizenship process. The children received certification of American citizenship along with a small American flag, which many waved during the ceremony.

The gathering capped off the journey of Nick Taylor, 16, and his sister Kiera, 15, who were adopted from separate orphanages in Uzbekistan by an American family in 2002 and 2003.

The two are already American citizens living in Colorado Springs. While munching on Cracker Jacks provided by CIS, they reflected on where they came from and where they are going in life.

Kiera hopes to work on prosthetic limbs when she gets older, and Nick hopes to become a professional soccer player.

During the ceremony, the kids sat restlessly through patriotic messages of freedom and brotherhood from CIS staff and President Donald Trump.

After all, it was a Friday afternoon.

However, ears perked up when former Colorado Rockies baseball star Vinny Castilla took the floor to tell his story of immigrating from Mexico.

Castilla, who recently became an American citizen, said he knew that the U.S. was the only place where he could follow his dreams of playing professional baseball.

“The only way to make that dream come true was to come to America,” he said.

Toward the end of the gathering, the children took a long and wordy oath of allegiance. Many who didn’t speak English murmured the words, but laughed and smiled when they made it through.

Afterward, children smacked Double Bubble gum and ate Cracker Jacks while Castilla shook hands and handed out baseball cards.

In the elevator, the Taylors said their family planned to eat Thai food and watch the new Harry Potter movie.

“A very American day,” Nick said.