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In what has become a nearly annual ceremony at the University of Northern Iowa, immigrants from dozens of countries were naturalized as U.S. citizens Monday.

UNI has played host to a U.S. Citizenship Naturalization Ceremony for seven of the past eight years – similar to ceremonies that play out several times a year in cities across the country, events that reaffirm our ideals as a nation. Such ideals were intensified in the late 19th century when waves of European immigrants arrived through places like Ellis Island.

On Monday, 107 immigrants from 42 countries became U.S. citizens at the culmination of the latest ceremony here.

Holding the event at UNI is fitting, since having the university in the Cedar Valley has gone a long way toward introducing cultural diversity to the community for generations. Usually such proceedings are held in courthouses, but the facilities at UNI allow for large ceremonies, and they have become a welcome event on campus. It also allows professors to bring their students to watch, should they wish.

And witnessing a naturalization ceremony can only help us appreciate our own citizenship — as well as the built-in opportunities that accompany it.

The ceremony included the singing of the national anthem, the naturalization oath, the Pledge of Allegiance and messages from Sens. Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst, Rep. Rod Blum and President Donald Trump.

As in years past, U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge C.J. Williams, Northern District of Iowa, presided over the event with assistance from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. He reminded the new citizens of their obligations and congratulated them on their milestone.

“You must pay taxes; you should vote every chance you are given; some of you may decide to run for public office; and you must obey the laws, so I don’t see you in my courtroom.”

We also applaud these recently naturalized citizens for their patience and persistence, which are often required in the process of obtaining legal citizenship.

The value of immigrants in Iowa and across the nation is undeniable, and these types of events serve as a welcome oasis in the never-ending, white-hot political discourse concerning immigration laws.

They’ve done it the right way. And for many of them, it’s taken a long time.

These events serve as a reminder that we, as a nation, need to look at immigration and illegal immigration as the two separate issues that they are and quit lumping them into one politicized theme.

We are aware of our immigration crisis — one our country’s leadership has been unable to adequately address for decades. Continuing to allow people to pour across borders relatively unimpeded is no more of an answer than deporting all undocumented immigrants. And we’re certain our nation will struggle with this hard-to-solve problem for many years to come.

That’s why this ceremony has become so refreshing.

“I now pronounce you United States citizens,” Williams proclaimed. “It is emotional for me. I know what you’ve done to get to this point in your life.”

We wish all of these ceremony participants well in their new lives as U.S. citizens.


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