When Veronica Kipp traveled from her home in Moldova to Montana, she was enamored with what she experienced.
“I loved it. And, I’m still here, so I guess I loved it a bit too much,” Kipp said.
On Thursday, she made her adoration official. Kipp, alongside 18 others, became a U.S. citizen at a ceremony in Butte federal court. The immigrants come from Canada, Chile, the People’s Republic of China, Germany, Guatemala, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Philippines, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
“This is a great day,” said U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Ralph Kirscher, who oversaw the naturalization ceremony. “This is a joyous day. Enjoy it.”
America offers much more opportunities, she said. Kipp, a bubbly 26-year-old brunette with a keen sense of style, credits U.S. television programs for helping her accent and fluency.
“Here you can do whatever you want,” said Kipp, who lives in Gardiner and manages a restaurant.
She still visits her homeland frequently and is a dual citizen.
“Butte historically is America’s great mosaic,” Kirscher told the new citizens.
The judge then quoted President Jimmy Carter, saying “We have become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.”
Ukraine-born Mike Shokur said Thursday’s experience was “new.”
“I’ve never experienced something like this before,” he said.
Shokur, 18, has lived in Kalispell for the last two years. The concrete worker said he doesn’t remember much about his time in his native country because he was 8 years old when his family moved to America.
Shokur said he was eager to return to Kalispell and celebrate with his friends.
During fiscal year 2012, approximately 763,000 immigrants were naturalized nationwide. After naturalization, foreign-born citizens enjoy nearly all the same benefits, rights and responsibilities that the Constitution gives to native-born U.S. citizens, including the right to vote.
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