Standing alongside four other immigrants onstage with their right hands raised, Regan Birr started to cry while repeating the final line of the Oath of Allegiance.
After an application process that lasted 3½ years, Birr, a competitive curler, came one step closer to her goal of representing the U.S. in the next Winter Olympics.
“I’ve been waiting for this day for so long that you kind of get caught in the wait,” said Birr, who is originally from Canada. “When it finally catches up with you and you hear it, you’re like ‘oh my gosh, it happened so soon! I’m a citizen!’ ”
Birr was one of five citizens naturalized Thursday in a ceremony that concurrently celebrated the grand opening of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ new field office in downtown Minneapolis.
The office, which previously was located in Bloomington, now occupies 32,000 square feet in Marquette Plaza at S. 3rd Street and Marquette Avenue S.
Full service in the new location began on May 1.
While naturalization ceremonies are usually held in federal courts, some are carried out in field offices. Images of the Statue of Liberty hung on the walls, and red, white and blue cupcakes were arranged to form the American flag on a table in the waiting area as the five new citizens celebrated the event with about 150 friends, relatives and onlookers.
The office is one of 86 in the nation and covers Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota and western Wisconsin. Tim Counts, a spokesman for the agency, said 500 to 660 people visit the office each month seeking immigration and citizenship information, while about 300 people come in each week for citizenship and green card interviews.
Leslie Tritten, director of the field office, said that the move has been in the works since about 2009 and that the Bloomington office was used for about 30 years.
“It was a good office, but it served its life,” Tritten said, recalling that door handles came off in her hands as she made the final rounds there.
She said the new location is better because it’s bigger and all on one floor, instead of being spread out across multiple floors. Nearby public transportation routes and a connection to the skyway system also make the new location more accessible.
Tritten cut the ribbon for the new office onstage with Daniel Renaud, associate director for field operations; Tony Bryson, acting central region director; David Douglas, district director; and U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank, who also administered the Oath of Allegiance.
Frank told the new citizens that the culture, traditions and perspectives they have enrich society and strengthen democracy in the U.S. He said they should make an effort to share their experiences and beliefs with others.
“The strength of our nation lies in the diversity of the people that live here,” Frank said. “We’re a better country now than we were a few moments ago.”