Jose Arroyo of Streamwood has been a U.S. citizen for just two months, but he already has his new American passport.
"I have always been the kind of person who likes to have all his papers in order," he said, adding he's looking forward to voting in the next election. "I like to be involved."
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Arroyo was among about 45 new U.S. citizens -- including natives of India, Iraq, France, Laos and Peru -- who were honored Wednesday night at the Elgin City Council meeting, where the Elgin Choral Union also performed. All those honored either live, work or have taken citizenship classes in Elgin.
Arroyo, 53, said he came to the Chicago area a decade ago after his daughters petitioned for U.S. residence for him and his wife. He was sworn-in as a U.S. citizen in May.
This is the 15th year that such a ceremony has taken place, said Jerry Turnquist, a member of Elgin's new citizen reception committee. The committee also includes staff from Centro de Informacion and Elgin Community College.
Most of those honored Wednesday took citizenship or ESL classes in Elgin and represent an estimated half of Elgin area residents who've become new citizens in the last year, Turnquist said.
Elgin resident Christelle Dabondons, 56, said she came from Laos in 2001 and began learning English the following year through the YWCA Elgin.
"I wanted to get American nationality because I said that if I am going to stay in this country for life, I should know well the American constitution in order to live in harmony," Dabondons said.
Turnquist said he first thought of honoring new citizens after he took the oath of allegiance in the late 1990s for his two sons, both adopted from Russia.
The rules have changed since then, and now all children adopted by U.S. citizens get automatic citizenship, he said.
"This was a momentous experience, and I did this in a little cubicle in an office in Chicago. So I wondered how other people do it," he said.
"On a wider community level, I think the spotlight needs to be put on these people for this accomplishment. ... People in the community need to know that these people are stepping up to this and going through the time and trouble (to get citizenship)."
Citizenship classes at ECC and Centro de Informacion are free.
Applying for citizenship with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services costs $595, plus a $85 biometric fee. Some low-income residents can quality for a fee waiver from USCIS.