- Associated Press - Friday, August 19, 2016

RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) - After months of preparation and much paperwork, around three dozen teens from Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East received citizenship certificates Friday at a special ceremony in New Mexico.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services presented the certificates in Rio Rancho, New Mexico for minors who recently earned citizenship through their parents in a ceremony that officials say is becoming more common.

The teen, from ages 14 to 18, received citizenship after they were adopted or after a parent became a naturalized citizen. Children as young as 5-years-old also earned citizenship Friday but their certificates were mailed to their parents’ homes, said Amy West, acting field director for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Albuquerque.

“When they are 14-years-old or older, it’s a requirement that you take the Oath and that’s why we have these ceremonies,” West said. “It’s an important event and not just a piece of paper.”

West administered an Oath of Allegiance in front of the families of the teens from places such as Iraq, China, Mexico, and Cuba.

Among those to take the oath in front of parents was Irving Vladimir Coronel Estrada, 15, of El Paso, Texas. The Ciudad Juarez, Mexico-born Estrada said it was important to follow in the footsteps of some family members who recently become U.S. citizens.

“It opens up a lot of opportunities, and it is a great honor,” Estrada said in Spanish. “I like it here, and I hope this helps me with my education later.”

Long Chi Vong, of Albuquerque, said it was important to become a citizen for a better life in the U.S. “You usually don’t have that in Vietnam,” said Vong, citing the country where he was born.

Vong said he plans on voting when he turns 18 but didn’t have any opinions yet on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump or Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“I’m not ready for that yet,” she said.


Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at https://twitter.com/russcontreras . His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/russell-contreras .


This story has been corrected to show the name of one new citizen is Long Chi Vong.

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