15 Arizonans become U.S. citizens while overlooking Grand Canyon

Arizona residents who are about to become new U.S. citizens are welcome to a naturalization ceremony at Grand Canyon National Park. (Photo by Bri Cossavella/Cronkite News)

Valerie Dalton, born in Aruba, receives her certificate of U.S. citizenship. (Photo by Bri Cossavella/Cronkite News)

Liliana Spurlock, formerly from Colombia, reacts with emotion after taking her oath of U.S. citizenship. (Photo by Bri Cossavella/Cronkite News)

Fifteen men and women from 12 different countries participated in today’s ceremony. (Photo by Cassie Ronda/Cronkite News)

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK – Liliana Spurlock knew she wanted to be a U.S. citizen since the first moment she stepped on American soil 13 years ago.

The 43-year-old, originally from Colombia, was one of 15 men and women who now call Arizona home and took oaths of citizenship Thursday morning at the Grand Canyon. The naturalization ceremony at an outdoor amphitheater was conducted with the vistas of the canyon as the backdrop to showcase the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

The new citizens originally hailed from 12 countries ranging from China to New Zealand, from Germany to Indonesia. But each had a connection to Arizona. Some of the new citizens came from nearby cities like Flagstaff and Page, while others traveled from Phoenix.

Al Gallmann, district director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Arizona and Nevada, said holding the citizenship ceremony at the canyon made the experience more meaningful.

“Other than baseball and apple pie, there’s nothing more American than the national parks,” Gallman said. Admission to Grand Canyon and other national parks is free through Sunday.

Valerie Dalton, 67, could have pursued citizenship in several different countries, but she decided to call the Grand Canyon state home.

“When I first arrived in Arizona, it was the night sky that attracted me,” said Dalton, who was born in Aruba. Standing on a South Rim overlook after the ceremony, she said she cherished the opportunity to look out over thousands of years of geological transformation.

Becoming a new citizen on the rim of the Grand Canyon enriched the significance of the moment for Spurlock.

“This is going to live permanently in my memory,” Spurlock said. “To become a U.S. citizen at the Grand Canyon – it’s like two gifts at the same time.”