Maria Cuartero Toledo approached Ur Jaddou, the chief of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), for her naturalization certificate on a sunny Friday morning in June (June 17).
“A lot of emotions, happiness, curiosity to see my upcoming steps in the U.S.,” said Cuartero Toledo, who is originally from Spain, holding the proof of her new citizenship after 12 years of immigration processes that she described as ‘pretty straightforward.’
“And I like the fact it’s in this neighborhood. This neighborhood has a lot of meaning for me. I have many friends living here. The piano bar, where they spend many nights, is here.”
Last year, Cuartero Toledo worked as a psychiatrist for transgender youth.
“So, for me, it has a very special meaning.”
Including Cuartero Toledo, 12 citizenship candidates, originating from Albania, Canada, China, Dominican Republic, Ghana, India, Pakistan, Spain, and Turkey, took the oath at the historic Stonewall Monument commemorating the Stonewall riots of June 28, 1969, the start of the LGBT rights movement in the United States.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) chose the site to celebrate June as the Pride Month, to “reflect on the progress we have made as a Nation in the fight for justice, inclusion, and equality,” and to support LGBTQIA+ rights.
“Take full, full advantage of all the rights, the opportunities, the responsibilities that it means to be an American citizen and to take advantage of what we learned today,” said Ur Jaddou, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“We’re sitting here in such a monumental place that meant so much to the history of our country and what our country is about. It’s about equality. It’s about freedom. It’s about liberty. And that’s what we did today. And we imparted this on some new citizens, and that’s just the beginning of a journey for them.”
Last year, USCIS expanded citizenship eligibility for children of same-sex couples born overseas. This year, the agency recognized same-sex marriages for refugees, who come from countries that don’t formally recognize same-sex marriages.