Thursday, June 13, 2024

60 people to become citizens at Southport’s Naturalization Ceremony

A parade through downtown Southport is among the events included in the annual N.C. Fourth of July Festival. (Courtesy photo)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY — Rooted in a deep tradition of patriotism since 1795, North Carolina’s official 4th of July Festival is underway in the coastal town of Southport, with its most popular attraction coming off a three-year hiatus: a celebration for newly minted United States citizens.

The 24th annual naturalization ceremony, administered by the United States Department of Homeland Security U.S. Citizenship and Immigration service in 1996, will welcome dozens of people to take the oath to become a citizen. 

According to the Office of State Budget and Management, roughly 860,000 people in North Carolina are immigrants, with 40% naturalized.

Since starting in 1996, Southport’s festival has naturalized thousands of people — 723 since 2007 alone.

In 2011, more than 150 individuals from 52 countries attended to take the oath of citizenship, the highest in the festival’s history. 

In 2020, the naturalization ceremony went on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic but returns this year with 60 individuals from 31 different countries. Mexico and India represent nine, followed by Pakistan with five individuals, and El Savador with four. 

According to USCIS, the most people naturalized in Southport come from Mexico and India. They also are the top two countries of birth for all naturalizations across the world in 2021, with more than 20% combined. 

The remaining 27 countries, established from regions of Europe, Asia, North and South America, and Africa, represent at least one new citizen at this year’s ceremony.

Usually, naturalizations take place in federal courthouses, however, Southport’s event is part of its larger Independence Day celebration. The festival began Friday, June 30, takes place through July 4.

“The ceremony isn’t isolated, but embedded,” Trisha Howarth, 4th of July Festival Publicity and Divisions Community Chair, explained. “You’re not just showing up to a courtyard or launch ceremony, but instead are feeling the patriotic vibe all over the city.”

The naturalization ceremony takes place on the Ft. Johnston Garrison House Lawn, along the banks of the Cape Fear River at 4:45 p.m.

“What a better time to embrace new citizens than what we were founded on to begin with:  freedom and liberty,” she said.

Before the ceremony, Brunswick Big Band, formed in 2005, will perform songs from “The Great American Songbook,” including blues and other patriotic tunes.

Elaine Marshall, Secretary of State in North Carolina, is this year’s keynote speaker, the first woman elected to an executive branch statewide in 1996.

The patriotic vibe, drenched throughout the city of Southport, will start with this year’s oath of citizenship, presented by Chief U.S. District Judge, Eastern District of North Carolina, Richard E. Meyers. 

Myers, a former law professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel-Hill, served as an assistant United States attorney in the central district of California before his selection to the federal courts in 2019. 

The 140-word Oath of Allegiance is the final step in the swearing-in process, after undertaking a 10-step process of applications, tests, and interviews with immigration services. 

The oath 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.”

After the oath is taken, the Declaration of Independence will be read. Then, Southport’s cannon, known as “THOR” — a full-scale replica of an 1841 Civil War 6-pound bronze cannon — will fire a shot in the air, signaling newfound independence for inducted citizens 

“As some of our country’s newest citizens complete the naturalization program, the people of Southport and the North Carolina 4th of July Committee look forward to welcoming them to our community,” Tom Rabon, 4th of July Festival Committee chairman, said.

The festival will continue July 4, with the annual parade at 11 a.m along Moore and Howe streets; it will be streamed on WECT, Port City Daily’s media partner. Fireworks will be displayed over Southport’s Waterfront park at 9 p.m., following The Castaway’s performance on Waterfront stage at 8 p.m. 

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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