900 people become U.S. citizens at naturalization ceremony in St. Paul

Image 1 of 2

A day Americans spend remembering a tragic moment in history, turned to hope for the future Tuesday.

From around the world to Minnesota’s capital, 900 immigrants became new U.S. citizens at St. Paul’s RiverCentre.

“A joyous day, absolutely," said Gunel Rallis. "One of the emotional, one of the joyous days of my life." 

Rallis is originally from Azerbaijan but has spent the last nine years in America. 

“As a new immigrant, new country, I learned a lot about different cultures, diversity and I’m very proud to be a citizen now,” Rallis said after the ceremony.

Rallis planned to spend the day celebrating with her family.

“I am going back home, I will hug my baby girl,” Rallis said. “I will teach them diversity, I will teach them to respect other nations, respect people, and be a proud American.”

Henry Quito immigrated to the United States from Ecuador and now lives in Minneapolis. He says while the path to citizenship was difficult, he is a proud citizen. He planned to go to work after the ceremony.

“Safer passage to travel, less immigration to deal with,” Quito said of the benefits to becoming a citizen.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and District 48 Senator Steve Cwodzinski spoke during the ceremony, which was performed by Magistrate Judge Kate M. Menendez.

“You don’t look alike, you don’t worship the same way, but here you are at the end of a process whose values bind us together as people,” Frey said. 

Cwodzinski is the son of immigrants. He spent more than three decades teaching American government. 

“I see right now something I wish every American and every Minnesotan could see," said Cwodzinski. "A sea of humanity, wanting to leave this world a better place than they found it."

During fiscal year 2017, more than 700,000 people were naturalized at ceremonies nationwide. 

“It means a lot. It means a new life, new opportunities, new chances, new world,” Rallis said.