Clad in neckties and Steelers' jerseys, sporting pigtails and carrying stuffed animals, 23 children from 14 countries became United States citizens at a ceremony held at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh this morning.
The new citizens range in age from 3 to 18 and originally came from Europe, Asia, Africa and South America and now all live in southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Valerie Tobias, Immigration Services Officer for U.S. Citizenship ad Immigration Services in the Pittsburgh office said, that for children to become citizens it always must occur through their parents – either through their biological parents or their adoptive parents.
Rick Heis drove up from Morgantown, WV for his 16-year-old stepson's ceremony. His stepson Alex was born in Ukraine but has been in the US for 10 years. He said he doesn't think it will change very much for him in terms of his behaviors and how he is perceived - he's been here long enough. "For him, its just a matter of the official process," he said.
Michelle Hilton and her husband Gary of Lawrence County, adopted their now six-year-old daughter Essie from the Democratic Republic of Congo two years ago.
"I think it's really special that our country would even hold a ceremony to welcome her. And I know that as she becomes an adult and she looks in her scrapbook and she can see the pages of this ceremony its going to be really significant to her that her country welcomed her," said Hilton.
About 2,500 people a year are naturalized in Pittsburgh.