SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Fifty people from 40 different countries became naturalized American citizens prior to a Padres game at Petco Park Monday evening.
The event held before the Padres’ matchup with the Dodgers was part of a federal court initiative to highlight Constitution Day and Citizenship Day on Sept. 17. It is the first year they are holding naturalization ceremonies at ballparks.
The Padres, Dodgers and six other Major League Baseball teams are participating in the program nationwide.
Hector Dulude said, “It’s definitely a milestone for me.”
A native of Peru, Monday’s event was seven years in the making for Dulude.
“It's a lot of waiting. Once you have a green card, you have to meet the five years living here, and then you can apply … For me, moving forward, I hope I can help my fellow citizens,” Dulude said.
Rene Jackson, from South Africa, said, “I've lived 29 years in San Diego. Every time I renew my green card, I think, ‘Boy, I ought to do the citizenship thing,’ and now I've done it.”
Jackson said he wants to get involved with the country he’s called home for so long.
“I'd like to participate in the political system. I've advocated for a long time, and I’d like to do it. A lot of things have happened in this country in the past few years, and it’s important that everybody has a voice,” said Jackson.
Those in the group expressed gratitude for the opportunity that many want but are still waiting to get.
Dulude said, “Where I come from, not everybody can come here, and my personal experience, at least I can say this country has been very generous for me.”