For Cuban Gabriel Santana Jr., 27, obtaining U.S. citizenship means he can now call himself an American and can call the United States his home.
Santana said he and his family came to Miami, Florida when he was only 9 years old.
Santana arrived on Saipan in July 2015 to work as a table games supervisor at the Best Sunshine International, Ltd. temporary casino Best Sunshine Live.
“So I’m very, very happy,” he said on acquiring his citizenship.
As a U.S. citizen now, Santana said he is not afraid what might happen to him in the future—being sent back to a country he barely knows.
“I really don’t know my country back home. So I had the realization one day what will happen if I get sent back there. So right now it makes me feel like I am an American. This is my home. This is it,” Santana said.
For Russian ballerina Anna Glushko Eagle-Oden, obtaining U.S. citizenship after living in the CNMI for 17 years is a “great journey.”
Anna Eagle-Oden said it’s a milestone for her, her husband, and her family.
“It’s great to realize that I am now a citizen of the United States,” she said, recalling that she first arrived in the CNMI in December 1999 when she worked at the Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino.
Anna Eagle-Oden said it feels great to be a citizen of the greatest democratic country, where people’s rights are protected.
She said being a U.S. citizen brings great opportunity.
For Antonio Santos Romero Sr., who hails from Paranaque, Philippines, obtaining U.S. citizenship at the ripe old age of 79 is a fulfillment of his dreams.
Romero said Saipan is his home together with his children.
His eldest of four children was the one who petitioned him. The three other children are all green card holders.
Romero first came to Saipan in 1988 where he worked as an assistant cook for Dai-Ichi Hotel, which is now called Fiesta Resort & Spa.
Romero’s wife, Angelita, 79, from the Philippines, also obtained U.S. citizenship last July.
Santana, Anna Eagle-Oden, and Romero were among the 22 who took oath as newest U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony held yesterday at the American Memorial Park’s Visitor’s Center’s Theater in Garapan.
Most of the newest citizens are from the Philippines and the rest are from five other countries—Cuba, Japan, China, Russia, and Thailand.
The ceremony was held at the American Memorial Park’s Visitor Center’s Theater because it is one of 412 parks that is part of the U.S. National Park Service.
The U.S. National Park Service celebrated its 100th birthday last Aug. 16.
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona presided over the ceremony.
Immigration Services Officer Shelia Kelty moved to accept the new citizens.
National Park Service-American Memorial Park acting chief ranger Jayson Tinney, who served as the guest speaker at the ceremony, said the newest citizens will have the opportunity to also visit the newest park in the national park system before the rest of the world.
“Looks like Rota will be able to obtain the National Park Designation,” Tinney disclosed.
Tinney said when visiting the parks, the citizens will be reminded that they all have the duty to be stewards in helping to protect the natural, historical, and cultural resources in all parks for another 100 years.
Tinney said each of the national parks showcase the country’s majestic natural resources and landscapes, or tell the story of historical events or pay tribute to great men and women who are shining examples of great citizenship.
At the American Memorial Park, he said, people remember the ultimate sacrifice of the young soldiers and the Chamorro and Carolinian men, women, and children caught in the battle 72 years ago.
Tinney said as U.S. citizens they will be free to travel across the country and that he encourage them to visit the other parks and take in the significance of historical places.
Aside from Santana, Anna Eagle-Oden, and Romero, the other newest citizens are Angelita Dalosa Angui, Antonina Banes, Mary Joan Cabrera Boongaling, Marilyn Pio Buzzutto, Elizabeth Velasquez Castro, Lifen Lu Delos Reyes, Marinette Finuliar Duenas, Zosimo Tuba Gonzaga Jr., Marites Dela Cruz Iriarte, Edgar Golino Labios, Teresita Pascual Llanes, Bernadino Siclat Montague, Taro Okawa, Rosalina Miranda Rohringer, Pronphun Jindawong Sablan, Marilyn Sabucido Samphere, Emma Sun Mason, Guihua Wang, and Yuyan Wang.