POMONA -- Fairplex's Building 4 became a federal courtroom Tuesday where more than 8,100 Southern Californians became new United States citizens.
Residents of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties participated in three separate ceremonies where they took the Oath of Allegiance to became naturalized citizens.
During the last of three ceremonies, Judge Meredith Jury administered the oath to 2,696 new citizens.
"I am in awe of you," Jury said. "I give you my greatest congratulations."
The new citizens completed a lengthy legal process that began with becoming permanent residents of the nation and preparing for citizenship through classes and studying, she said.
"You know more about the government of the United States than most people who are born here," Jury said.
Some take their United States citizenship for granted but "I know you do not take this for granted," she said.
"I know you have come here for the freedom we all enjoy, to move ahead, to get an education, to start a business," Jury said.
Anh Tran, a resident of Victorville, wore a white sweater with a U.S. flag woven into the garment.
The sweater was one way of expressing her happiness about the joyous occasion, she said.
"This is a country of freedom," Tran said, tears welling in her eyes. "I'm happy living here."
The native of Vietnam said when she left that country she also left communism behind and is thankful to the U.S. for welcoming her.
Rafik Sargsyan of Van Nuys, a native of Armenia, said he was happy to be a citizen of a democratic nation and by becoming a citizen he fulfilled a wish.
The day was like a new birth date, Sargsyan said through friend Gevorg Mamyan who translated for him.
"This is one of the happiest days of his life," Mamyan said.
Arayik Atoyan of Glendale also came to the United States from Armenia.
"This is a very happy day.I love America," Atoyan said with a smile.
Through his nephew Mamyan, Atoyan said he wants to participate in the electoral process.
Minerva Cobilla, a native of the Philippines, who lives in Fullerton with her family, said she has been living in the United States for 12 years and reaching this day "was the fulfillment of my dream," she said.
Her husband is a naturalized citizen and her daughter, who is approaching her 11th birthday, was born in the United States.
"My daughter said, `Mom, congratulations, you're a citizen like us," Cobilla said.
Citizenship, Cobilla said, will bring opportunities including the possibility of working for the federal government and being able to vote.
The new citizens will have the opportunity to cast votes and play a part in the election local, state and federal officials, Jury said.
But being citizens also brings with it obligations, she said.
"An obligation dear to the heart of courts is the obligation to serve on a jury," the judge said.
Nancy Alby, field office director for the Los Angeles Field Office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, challenged the new citizens to be active members and "build a society of service and character."
Reach Monica via email or call her at 909-483-9336.