They came from across the southern border.
They came from around the world: Thailand, Mexico, Philippines, Kenya, Germany, Vietnam, Romania, China, Bulgaria and India.
Some came alone.
Others came with family, extended family, church family and work family.
They all came with joy.
“I’m here because of God,” said Salome Kemunto Kerecha, formerly of Kenya and now a United States citizen.
“The Bible says, ‘This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad of it,'” Kerecha exulted along with her family and fellow church members at a naturalization ceremony at the federal courthouse in Casper on Monday.
She was joined by 19 other people from nine other countries who petitioned for citizenship, and after the tests and interviews over many months, were formally granted their wish by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl.
He then administered the oath of citizenship, which said in part, “… that I will support and defend, the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and I will bear true allegiance to the same….”
A video from President Donald Trump was shown, in which he said in part, “All Americans are your brothers and sisters, and each of us must do our part to keep America safe, strong and free.”
Families, friends, representatives from the congressional delegation, and representatives of patriotic and military organizations packed the courtroom. Even representatives of the U.S. Small Business Administration distributed literature for prospective entrepreneurs.
Some of the new citizens have been in the U.S. for a few years.
Others have been here for 40 years.
They came from cities and towns across Wyoming.
Some offered simple thanks and spoke through tears.
Others such as Alexandru Petre David of Romania said thanks, adding he wants to give something back.
Demetrio Soronio Penascoza of the Phillipines said he worked very hard to gain his citizenship.
“I’m proud to have this flag in my hand,” Penascoza said. “Maybe the best surprise I can make is to raise a flag at my home, an American flag.”
All were welcomed with a round of applause.
Former Gov. and Ambassador to Ireland Mike Sullivan told the new citizens that they know what America looks like from afar.
“I believe we’re a country of aspiration, not perfection,” Sullivan said. “For we as a country and citizens often failed to live up to the principles that we embrace: the principle of liberty, self-government, equal opportunity without regard to race, gender, religion or nation of origin, which is sometimes referred to as the American Dream.”
But America has a genius that comes from its diversity, he said. “As a fellow citizen I welcome you and thank you for being part of that genius.”
After the ceremony, Skavdahl said
“In my job, this is about the only time I get to swear at people and watch them walk out with citizenship or with a gift that they enjoy and appreciate,” the judge said. “They don’t go out in shackles, they don’t go out to serve a sentence. It’s the joy of being a citizen.”
“Listening to them talk, it reminds me about how fortunate we are in this country to have the system, to have the rights that we have,” Skavdahl said. “Days like this keep me in the job, and make me enjoy putting that robe on and having the privilege to do what I got to do today.”