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09 July 2013

Independence Day Naturalization Ceremonies: One Man's Journey to Citizenship

Last week, we naturalized over 7,800 new citizens in celebration of the 237th birthday of the United States.

Herbert Crooks, from Panama, was one of the new Americans to take the Oath of Allegiance at a ceremony held at the Department of the Treasury Building near the White House in Washington, DC.

Herbert grew up in the care of his grandmother, who was from the Panama Canal Zone and didn't speak Spanish. He moved to the Brooklyn, New York in 1988 at age 16. After graduating high school, he served in the Marines for eight years and is a Gulf War veteran. Herbert says he followed in the good example of his brother, who retired as a master sergeant after 24 years with the Army. His sister is also in the military, serving as a petty officer first class with the Navy.

Herbert says he always felt a part of his community and country. Even in Panama, he listened to English-language radio and felt a connection to the United States. After he moved to New York, he felt that the country was, in essence, his own. “When I started living in the country, I felt a part of the country,” says Crooks.

Recently, hearing so much about immigration in the news prompted him to think about his own status. Although he felt he was a part of America, he had yet to become an actual citizen. “I lived here and loved the country, but I wanted to go the extra step to show that I am 100 percent American.”

Herbert (right) is congratulated by USCIS Washington, DC District Director Sarah Taylor (left), USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas (middle-left), Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (middle-right)

When his children learned he was going to get his citizenship, they asked, "Aren't you a citizen already, Dad?" Herbert replied, "On paper I'm not, but deep down, I've always been American."

Herbert Proudly Holding his Certificate of Naturalization

USCIS congratulates Herbert and the thousands who joined him in becoming citizens over the past week. For more on the naturalization ceremonies held the week of July 4, please visit and and search #July4Natz



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