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Knoxville holds in-person naturalization ceremony for the first time since 2020

About 150 people from 48 countries took the oath of allegiance at the City-County Building.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — For the first time since COVID-19 hit, dozens of foreign-born people living in East Tennessee gathered as one for an emotional and meaningful ceremony -- to become an American citizen.

The first such in-person event since January 2020 in Knoxville took place Thursday morning in the Knoxville City-County Building. U.S. District Judge Katherine Crytzer administered the oath to roughly 150 people from 48 countries. People traveled from as far as Winchester to Bristol for the Knoxville occasion.

"It means a lot. We have been working on this for a long time, and now just being part of a citizen is just amazing," said Ileana Blanco Ancheta, who came to the U.S. from Costa Rica.

RELATED: The United States Citizenship Test: Would you be able to pass it?

During the pandemic, virtual ceremonies were held to swear in new U.S. citizens.

What an honor to be a part of this morning’s Naturalization Ceremony. 149 people, from 48 countries —took the oath to become citizens of the United States. Congratulations!

Posted by Mayor Indya Kincannon on Thursday, July 7, 2022

It's a happy moment, something many participants have waited years to realize, Jason Huffman, deputy clerk for the U.S. District Court in Knoxville, said. 

The mayors of Knoxville and Knox County welcomed the new citizens.

Participants took the oath of allegiance, which among other things calls on them to pledge to support the U.S. Constitution, to renounce allegiance to any foreign state, to carry arms on behalf of the country if summoned and to do work of "national importance under civilian direction when required by law."

It's something many have worked hard to get, going through a process that includes taking a test of their knowledge of U.S. history and civics.

Many natural-born Americans take their citizenship for granted. To those who have worked to gain citizenship, it's solemn and unforgettable, Huffaker said.

"This day to these people -- it's right up there with the birth of their children," Huffaker said. "It's a really eye-opening experience to see how important it is for these people."

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