House of Red, White and Blues: New citizens chat about 'feeling American'

Immigration Ceremony

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Mariela Rassouli of Venezuela came to the United States to study when she was 15 years old. She now works as a dog trainer in Laguna Niguel.

Immigration Ceremony

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A man attempts to reunite with his family among the thousands of immigrants recently sworn in at a ceremony in downtown Los Angeles.

Immigration Ceremony

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Sandra Omoyele came to United States from Lagos, Nigeria, in search of better opportunities and less corruption. She now works as a nurse in Hawthorne.

Immigration Ceremony

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A new citizen left the naturalization ceremony with his daughter.

Immigration Ceremony

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Ker Vang left Laos 13 years ago and settled in Los Angeles. He recently moved to Fresno with his wife and young child where he works in shipping and receiving.

Immigration Ceremony

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Immigration officers passed out American flags to each new citizen on their way into the hall on Wednesday.

Immigration Ceremony

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Fifteen years ago, Ranjit Singh (right) and his mother Harbhajan Kaur emigrated from the Punjab province in India and now live in North Hollywood.

Immigration Ceremony

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Fatima Guezzar (left) and Raba Foley came to the United States from Morocco to be with their families.

Immigration Ceremony

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Flags and flag apparel were popular among the thousands of new Americans sworn in Wednesday.

Immigration Ceremony

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An official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security gave instructions to thousands of newly minted Americans.

Immigration Ceremony

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Joaquin Ortiz from Mexicali in Baja California moved to the United States 13 years ago after he married a U.S. citizen. He owns a landscaping business in Los Robles.

Immigration Ceremony

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A man takes his oath of citizenship at naturalization ceremony for 7,362 immigrants at the Los Angeles Convention Center on June 27.

Immigration Ceremony

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Terry Galon came to the United States for business reasons 27 years ago and recently retired to Palm Springs.

Immigration Ceremony

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Luis Ramirez of Rancho Palos Verdes celebrates moments after becoming a U.S. citizen.

Immigration Ceremony

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A worker holds up a voter registration form at the naturalization ceremony for 7,362 immigrants at the Los Angeles Convention Center on June 27.

Immigration Ceremony

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Workers were stationed through the naturalization ceremony to help new Americans with registering to vote.

Immigration Ceremony

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Luis Barron listened to a speech at a naturalization ceremony for 7,362 immigrants at the Los Angeles Convention Center on June 27, 2012.


On June 27, more than 7,300 people from more than 120 countries were sworn in as American citizens at the Los Angeles Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles. The top countries represented were Mexico, the Philippines, Vietnam, El Salvador, China and Iran. New citizens included a 102-year-old man from the Philippines, as well as actor and Dancing with the Stars competitor Gilles Marini.

We spoke with dozens of new citizens and asked them why and how they came to the United States, as well as when the first time they felt like an American was. Some felt American as soon as they set foot in the country, while others felt like they weren't truly American until they raised their hand and took the oath on Wednesday.

When did you feel like an American? Whether you were born here or not, we want to know about the moments when you felt akin to our nation, part of this country. Tell us by sending your thoughts below, or posting on KPCC's Facebook page.

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Shido-Sheng Peng, 92, of Taiwan first came to United States in 1961 as a student. He admired America's actions to protect Chinese people during World War II. He came to the United States for good in 1985 and brought most of his family here with him.

Rudy and Mariana Darryanto came to the United States in 1998 from Indonesia. They live in Corona and Rudy owns a used car dealership in Riverside. They came to the United States as refugees when riots in 1998 targeted ethnic Chinese in their home country.

Shaista Khan came to the United States in 1989 from the United Kingdom to be with her husband. She lives in Northridge. She's had a lifetime of work with international relief organizations as a fundraiser and organizer, including the American Red Cross. She currently works for an Islamic relief organization that provides humanitarian assistance after natural disasters.

Ramsin Babaei came to the United States six years ago from Iran where, as a Christian, he faced religious persecution. He now attends church regularly here in the United States with his mother. He felt like he belonged in America before he ever set foot in the country because he watched so many Hollywood movies.

David Sykes came to the United States from the United Kingdom, where he lived until he was 24. He traveled the United States before coming to Los Angeles, where he met his future wife and decided to stay. He now runs a business that consults with people in holistic healing and healthy lifestyles in Venice.

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