Achieving the dream of American citizenship already makes for a pretty good Hollywood ending.
So at least in that sense, the setting Thursday couldn’t have been a better fit.
“A lot of people worked hard to pull off this very unique ceremony. I’m fairly confident this has never happened in the history of Tulsa,” Mayor G.T. Bynum said at the historic Admiral Twin Drive-In, where 55 new citizens were welcomed as part of the city of Tulsa’s latest naturalization ceremony.
The city began hosting monthly ceremonies at City Hall last year, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic it was forced to scale them back.
At recent ones, only 10 participants were allowed per ceremony to ensure proper distancing among participants.
The drive-in ceremony, which the Admiral Twin was happy to accommodate, allowed more people to naturalize at one time safely, officials said.
The 55 new citizens naturalized Thursday came from 22 countries.
Along with any accompanying guests, the new citizens stayed mostly in their cars, where they could tune in to the ceremony on their radios.
They got out briefly to take the oath of allegiance.
The mayor and other ceremony officials occupied a temporary stage set up in front of the drive-in screen.
Bruce Paulin, Oklahoma City field office director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, read aloud each country represented and asked those in their cars to honk their horns three times for their country of origin.
“This is a new experience for us, doing this at a drive-in theater. So we’re trying to make it as fun as we can,” he said.
Among those taking the oath, Cherish Passawe, 13, was on hand with her mother, who drove her.
Camelia Passawe, a native of Liberia who’s been in the United States 10 years, became a citizen last year.
“As a minor my daughter is already a citizen because I am,” she said. “But I wanted her to get her own certificate. It will make it easier for her to get a passport and other things.”
“This is our country already,” she added. “We’ve been here for quite a while now. I don’t consider any other place my country, even though I wasn’t born here. This is home now for me.”
Oanh Phan of Bartlesville, a native of Vietnam, was accompanied by her wife, Thanh Nguyen, already a longtime citizen.
Phan’s main reason for seeking citizenship, she said, is “I want to vote.”
She and the other participants were able to register to vote at the ceremony, which means they made the Friday deadline to vote in the Nov. 3 election.
“This is such a great day,” Bynum said, briefly addressing the group.
“You are a historical figure in the life of your family. There will be generations of your family that will benefit because of what you are doing here today.”
At the close of the ceremony, the new citizens stood outside their cars once more, waving small American flags while a drone overhead took a group photo.
Admiral Twin owner Blake Smith said, “We’re incredibly thankful to be able to have the environment that we do that can allow this sort of thing, especially in a time where we have to put some space in between ourselves and others.
“Tulsa has always been a welcoming and resilient community. That was best shown when our theater burned down and our friends rallied behind us and helped us build it back better,” he said.
The city of Tulsa began hosting naturalization ceremonies in 2019 as part of the New Tulsans Initiative. They are held the second Thursday of every month.
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