They're Americans now: 35 become U.S. citizens at local ceremony

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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Did you know?

• Constitution Day and Citizenship Day are celebrated Sept. 17 in remembrance of the signing of the Constitution in 1787. Since 1952, they have been celebrated together.

• More than 32,000 people are becoming U.S. citizens at 158 ceremonies scheduled across the country from Friday, Sept. 14, through Saturday, Sept. 22.

Igor Shevchenko has lived in America for a dozen years. Still, it was a special moment Friday when he officially became an American.

"It feels good," the 19-year-old Battle Ground resident said after he took the oath of allegiance at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

"I came here when I was 7. I grew up here; it was about time," Shevchenko said.

The naturalization ceremony marked Fort Vancouver's third annual observance of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.

The event was conducted by the Portland office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and hosted by the National Park Service staff at Fort Vancouver.

"This is a big turning point in your lives," said Evelyn Sahli, director of the USCIS field office in Portland as she welcomed 35 citizenship candidates from 20 countries.

Tracy Fortmann, superintendent of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, reminded them of all the people who started coming here more than 180 years ago -- from more than 35 American Indian tribes, and from countries all around the world -- to build this community.

Even for someone who's been here for a while, the ceremony and the solemn recitation of the oath put things in perspective, Shevchenko said.

"You don't think about it" in the day-to-day routine, said the Clark College student, whose family came to the U.S. from Russia in 2000. "Then you sit here, and it all comes back."

The other 34 newly minted Americans came here from Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, China, Ethiopia, Germany, Haiti, India, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Moldova, Philippines, Romania, South Korea, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Vietnam.

After taking the oath, in which they absolutely and entirely renounced and abjured "all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen," they all became Americans.

"You have chosen to join us," Fortmann said, "and we are better for it."

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://twitter.com/col_history;tom.vogt@columbian.com.