Melanie Basa Asilo breathed a sigh of relief around 10:20 a.m. Thursday as she was named a new U.S. citizen.

“I’m pretty excited right now,” Asilo said in the rotunda of the State Capitol. “And a little hungry.”

Asilo was part of a naturalization ceremony held on the anniversary of the day Minnesota became a state 165 years ago. The special ceremony was reserved for 50 people representing 26 countries; a typical ceremony welcomes 1,000 new citizens.

Asilo, a 24-year-old from the Philippines, was one of the youngest new citizens sworn in Thursday. She’s been in the United States since February 2017, and went to college at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Asilo’s friends got her interested in U.S. politics, and the right to vote became a driving factor in her decision to become a citizen.

“They would fill me in, especially since I didn’t know a lot about the racial discrimination here in the U.S.,” Asilo said.

Asilo was accompanied at the event by her parents, and tracked down the presiding judge who swore in the group to take a quick photo.

“I’m pretty happy about it. I didn’t think I could get this far,” Asilo said. “I was pretty anxious.”

Melanie Basa Asilo with U.S. District Court Chief Judge Patrick J. Schiltz after the naturalization ceremony at the State Capitol on Thursday, May 11, 2023. Credit: Alfonzo Galvan / Sahan Journal

The Capitol rotunda was packed with a diverse group of new citizens and their loved ones.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Patrick J. Schiltz presided over the ceremony and led attendees in saying the Oath of Allegiance and later the Pledge of Allegiance.

“I want to congratulate you on becoming an American citizen today,” he said. “I know this is a special day for you and your family and your friends. It is a privilege for me to be able to share this day with you.” 

One of the new citizens, 30-year-old Mussa Mohmad from Somalia, was accompanied by his wife, who was born in the United States. He was all smiles but at a loss for words about his new accomplishment. 

“You can’t even tell how I feel, I mean—just wonderful,” Mussa said.

Mussa excitedly called loved ones when the ceremony ended and took photos in the rotunda. 

“This is a great and special day,” Mussa said. “It’s wonderful to be here in the Capitol in Minnesota.”

Mussa Mohmad was sworn in as a new U.S. citizen during a ceremony at the State Capitol on Thursday, May 11, 2023. Credit: Alfonzo Galvan / Sahan Journal

Alfonzo Galvan is a reporter for Sahan Journal, covering work, labor, small business, and entrepreneurship. Before joining Sahan Journal, he covered breaking news and immigrant communities in South Dakota,...