It was a day of firsts in Knoxville, Iowa on Saturday. Residents woke up to the year’s first dusting of snow on porches, cars, and fields. And in a little barn on the side of Highway 14 south of town, 30 young adults from 16 countries sat on blocks of hay with their parents, squeezing together for one purpose.
Young people from Bosnia, Mexico, Pakistan, Turkey, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, and other countries all took the Oath of Allegiance and officially became American citizens during a Naturalization Ceremony at Dan-D Farms south of Knoxville, complete with the national anthem, a flag posting, and a recorded message from president Obama.
Actually, the youth Saturday already were U.S. citizens…but the problem was they couldn’t prove it. The person who gave the oath, Immigration Services Officer Dolly Howe, said during the ceremony that that means the youth, when they were under 18, derived citizenship from their parents the day they became U.S. citizens in a naturalization ceremony of their own. Officer Howe says going through this process of ‘naturalization’ now gives the youth certificates: hard-copy proof they’re citizens.
The process also helps keep the federal databases up to date, which will mean less trouble and paperwork down the road for both the citizen and the government. Officer Howe even says it can take up to two years just to do enough research to confirm someone who didn’t receive naturalization is a citizen.
Dan and Jana Dennison own the farm, which features pumpkins, livestock, and an 18-acre corn maze, one of the biggest area attractions every fall. Dan Dennison says it was an honor federal officials chose to have the ceremony there.
It was hard to tell whether some of the youth were holding back tears when they received their certificates, or if it was the cold, or maybe a bit of both. But there was no mistaking the warm smiles, hugs, and congratulations going around afterwards.
The farm was selected by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services bureau as part of the “On the Road in Iowa” project, and was the ninth and last stop this year. Officer Howe says they’d like to have Dan-D Farms host groups next year, and are already brainstorming other locations for future ceremonies.