PHOTOS: Smiles behind a mask, becoming an American citizen during COVID


Jose Eloy Arellano poses for the camera (Sal Castro- KVEO)

Participates are separated six feet apart and wearing facemask as they wait to take the oath of citizenship . (Photographer Sal Castro- KVEO)

Harlingen, Texas (KVEO)-—Jose Eloy Arellano waited a long time for this day. He took his seat in a large, but mostly empty room with other people at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services offices in the Rio Grande Valley.

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Everyone sat six feet apart and wore masks. They took deep breaths as they prepared to take the Oath of Allegiance and finally become United States citizens.

A naturalization ceremony is a dream sought by many. Social distancing changed how the celebration takes place.

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Family and friends are not able to attend the ceremony. Most are forced to wait outside.

Jose Eloy Arellano is one of the thirty participates who took the oath of citizenship Wednesday morning.

Face masks hid smiles and laughs that tend to light up a room. What was once an hours-long ceremony has now been reduced to a thirty-minute-long event. All these changes have been made to protect the participants but that hasn’t changed their attitudes.

Lena Cabrera takes the oath of citizenship.

Thirty participates officially took the oath of citizenship on Wednesday morning.

It took Arellano, a native of Zacatecas, Mexico, five months to complete the process to get to this moment.

“It was tough due to the pandemic,” said Arellano.

He was one of the many Mexican natives to achieve their goal that morning. The moment could not be shared.

Arellano’s family waited outside the immigration office as he made the United States his permanent home.

The Arellano family poses together with Jose after the ceremony (Photographer Sal Castro-KVEO)

Norberto Echemendia, who comes from Cuba, said the moment was one of his happiest memories.

Echemendia is a local restaurant owner. Echemendia has been serving Cuban food for the last five years.

The moment means so much to him because his business is here to stay. His wife has been naturalized, along with his daughter. His son was born in the United States.

“It’s big, it’s very big because we are happy,” said Echemendia.

While the pandemic has impacted how we live our lives, for those achieving naturalization it is only been a minor bump.

Even though the ceremony cannot be enjoyed with others, there is nothing like becoming a US Citizen and stepping out the doors as one to your family.

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