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77 become U.S. citizens at Daley Center Plaza naturalization ceremony

A naturalizaticeremony was held Daley Center PlazThursday.  |  Alex Wroblewski~Sun-Times

A naturalization ceremony was held at Daley Center Plaza on Thursday. | Alex Wroblewski~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 13, 2013 6:57PM

At 4 a.m. Thursday, native Chicagoan Greg Esenberg drove to a 24-hour pharmacy to pick up red, white and blue star necklaces for his wife to wear during her naturalization ceremony taking place in the afternoon.

Rosie Esenberg and 76 others from 34 countries became U.S. citizens as they stood in the middle of Daley Center Plaza — right hands raised and pledging the “Oath of Allegiance.” The naturalization ceremony was part of the Flag Day celebration at the plaza.

Esenberg is originally from Bulgaria, though she’s been in the country for 13 years.

“I also got her a headband with flashing lights and strings and stuff. She’ll be wearing it all day,” said Greg Esenberg, placing a hand on Rosie’s shoulder over her bright red shirt, while keeping the other protectively on the stroller of the couple’s 2-month-old daughter.

To become a U.S. citizen, candidates must be permanent residents of the country for at least five years, or three years if they are married to a U.S. citizen, before they can apply to become naturalized citizens. Because of this process, many of the newly naturalized citizens said they already felt so at home in the U.S. that they didn’t expect much to change in their lives, besides the new ease of traveling with a U.S. passport.

The ceremony was hosted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

According to Marilu Cabrera, public affairs officer for the U.S. agency, most of those receiving U.S. citizenship were from Poland. The next most-represented countries were the Philippines, Iraq and India.

The half-hour ceremony included several short speeches by representatives from Citizenship and Immigration and the coalition as well as a presenting of colors, the national anthem, Pledge of Allegiance and a musical performance by Miss Chicago 2013, Savannah Teegarden.

Immediately after the naturalization ceremony, the new citizens hugged family members, snapped pictures — and registered to vote.

Other Flag Day activities included multicultural dance performances, informational booths set up by different organizations and several farmer’s market-style vendors around the square.

Flag Day is Friday, June 14

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