With the lower Manhattan skyline and the New York Harbor serving as a backdrop, 21 people became naturalized U.S. citizens in New Jersey on Monday morning.
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey was among the dignitaries at the Independence Day ceremony, delivering remarks after the citizens uttered the naturalization oath of allegiance at Liberty State Park in Jersey City.
"This nation was made possible because of the sweat and struggle and sacrifice and blood of our ancestors," said Booker.
Each citizen completed the naturalized process, which includes an exam.
Among the naturalized citizens was a man from Togo who just finished basic training in the U.S. armed forces.
"The country gave you a lot so you need to give back, and I feel like that's the only way I could give back and be useful to my country -- my new country," said Koame Toudji.
It was a momentous day for even organizer Cruz Builes, too. It was 30 years ago that she became an American citizen in the same park.
"I just get very emotional not only for us but for them, because I know what they're going through when they take that oath and become a naturalized citizen," she said.
The 21 new citizens come from: Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzogovina, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Guyana, India, Liberia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland and Togo.
The ceremony is part of USCIS' annual Independence Day celebration. More than 7,000 new U.S. citizens were welcomed in more than 100 naturalization ceremonies around the country between June 30 and July 4.
Liberty State Park is a common site for citizens to become naturalized citizens and is one of several iconic locations around the country to host the ceremonies.