They, along with 44 other candidates from 30 different countries, became United States citizens participating in naturalization ceremony in Memphis.
For both of these remarkable women, the process leading to Saturday’s ceremony has been arduous.
Frequent travel to Atlanta and Memphis, complicated paperwork, fingerprinting, interviews, tests about U.S. history and the English language — all successfully navigated. Exciting, emotional, intimidating are adjectives they applied to this experience which, ultimately, ended with the rewards and blessings of the citizenship each uniquely pursued.
Louise Maria (Loes) Riggins has lived in the U.S. longer than she lived in the Netherlands, her country of birth.
On Aug. 13, 1991, at 17 years of age, she arrived in Cleveland, to spend a year at Cleveland High School as a foreign exchange student. She would return to attend Lee University for baccalaureate and master’s degrees.
Acquiring “permanent residency status” and a “green card” in 1996, she has worked professionally at Erlanger Hospital and within both school systems locally, currently teaching language arts at Cleveland Middle School.
Rodora Garcia (Dawn) York met her husband, Jim, when he was researching ministry to singles in various locations around the globe. Their professional relationship led to love and Dawn immigrated to Cleveland from Baguio City, Philippines, on a “Fiancée Visa” in 2004.
Although she has a degree in journalism in the Philippines, she is currently pursuing a nursing degree at Cleveland State Community College.
Family support has been important for both Riggins and York. Zach, Zoe and Ty Riggins and Jim York were present at the naturalization ceremony.
They said they felt pride and gratitude for the courage and tenacity displayed by their spouses and parents during this long process. They were also astonished hearing the “Oath of Allegiance” required to be spoken by all candidates during the ceremony.
Zach Riggins said, “We only know the Pledge of Allegiance.” This Oath should be introduced to all of us as we grow into adulthood.”
It reads: “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion. So help me God.”
Belonging, safety, fulfillment — words associated with U.S. citizenship for many generations, extended to about 6,500 new citizens in Tennessee each year as they declare this Oath of Allegiance.