CHARLESTON – The U.S. District Court in Charleston recently held a naturalization ceremony for new citizens in the Southern District of West Virginia.
The Sept. 16 ceremony was is one of two to three naturalization ceremonies the court holds each year. During the ceremony, individuals take an oath to become U.S. citizens. That is followed by a reception at the court for the new Americans.
This is an emotional time for many as these individuals often wait years for this moment.
“It’s a pretty big deal,” Meg Kirk, case administrator II for the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of West Virginia told the The West Virginia Record. “It’s a very happy occasion. There’s very happy crying. Some people have waited a long time and it’s pretty touching."
The ceremonies have major significance for many of the applicants who become a U.S. citizen. Each ceremony has as many as 40 to 60 people in attendance, and citizenship is given to people from all over the world who have made their way to West Virginia.
Kirk remembers, specifically, a woman who had lost her father and carried his picture during the ceremony as if he, too, were supposed to be naturalized.
In another instance, Kirk recalled the naturalization ceremony held in May where the court’s newest magistrate’s parents were naturalized. “That was really cool,” Kirk said. She also remembered two women from Syria who received their oath, which was also incredibly touching.
For Kirk, the special ceremonies are the favorite part of her responsibilities. “It’s my most favorite thing that I do here,” Kirk said. “It’s probably the coolest thing I’ve ever been able to be a part of and I’m a small part of it. It’s very special.”
The actual naturalization ceremony is considered a legitimate court session that is presided over by a judge. Although the seriousness of the oath is understood by all, this is a time to celebrate for all involved. A reception is held at the courthouse for all involved, including the judge who presided over the ceremony.
For those that can’t wait until the day of the ceremony, they can elect to have an administrative ceremony in Pittsburgh. Although according to Kirk, most prefer to wait as the event is so special.
“It’s a pretty big deal so most of them wait for the pomp and circumstance,” Kirk said.
To coordinate the naturalization ceremonies, the district court works with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services out of Pittsburgh.
“They do all of the testing,” Kirk said. “They do all of the interviewing and all of the paperwork. They do the bulk of that stuff, then they come through here to take their oath. It becomes official when the district court judge administers the oath on ceremony day.”
Naturalization ceremonies are also held in the Northern District Court of West Virginia.