Twenty-five Montana residents from across the state gathered in the new federal courthouse in Billings on Thursday to take the oath of allegiance to the United States as they became citizens.
But the new citizens originally had traveled much farther — from 12 countries ranging from Chile and Mexico to Russia, China and Nepal.
Nikhil Kamat, a software developer working for Plumb Creek in Columbia Falls, came from India. He met his wife, Sarah, in college, finished his master's degree at Montana State University in Bozeman and has been in Montana for 10 years.
“I have been living here and paying taxes. I understand all the rights and responsibilities of being a U.S. citizen. I look forward to being able to vote,” Kamat said.
The couple and their two children, Nikita, 8, and Rohan, 6, also like to travel internationally. Being a naturalized citizen will make it easier for Kamat to get through customs. “We can all be in the same line,” Sarah Kamat said.
A Chile native, Isolde Andrea Frederick, who lives with her husband, David Frederick, a fishing guide, and their son, Ian, 7, in Sheridan, said she had a green card but wanted to become a citizen to eliminate having to renew the card. “I live here. I want to vote also,” she said.
After administering the oath, Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull presented the new citizens with their certificates.
Cebull welcomed the group and called the United States the greatest country in the world. He urged the new citizens to participate in their communities and exercise their free-speech rights. He also encouraged them to vote and to serve on juries.
“I don’t care who you vote for, but vote,” Cebull said.
After the ceremony, Cebull had the citizens pose for a group photo to commemorate the first naturalization event to be held in the new, $80 million courthouse, which was dedicated earlier this week. Cebull said the photo will become part of the building’s history.
Others becoming citizens included Dorry Nacario Armstrong, Philippines; Robelyn Verdida Baker, Philippines; Barbara Joy Bruckner, Canada; George Neil Den Oudsten, Canada; Alexey Drobizhev, Russia; Jose Palomar, Mexico; Diana Cecila Lowe, Venezuela; Josefina Antonio Garcia, Mexico; Elina Marselevna McCrone, Russia; Frehiwot Cicely Hamlin, Ethiopia; Nicola Ann Monahan, Ireland; Rafael Orozco, Mexico; Alan Arthur Rassaby, Australia; Chiela Hortilano Ridderman, Philippines; Ignacio Rodriguez; Mexico; Kirshna Mohan Rupavatharam, India; Maria Luz Angelitud Sisolak, Philippines; Jimmy Gyurme Sherpa, Nepal; Violeta Estorba Vladyka, Philippines; Irina Viktorovna Wilkie, Russia; Glen Gordon Wilson, Canada; Vivian Ruth Wilson, Canada; and Xuan Hong Yang, China.