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MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – Over the next two days, more than 300 men, women and children will swear their allegiance to the United States and become official become U.S. citizens at Biscayne National Park.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services held a ceremony primarily for children.
“I have been here for like nine years and my mom decided to become a citizen,” said 17-year old Yvelise Pena who came from Cuba. “It feels really good because I’m going to be here for the rest of my life so it’s good to become part of the people.”
On Wednesday a second ceremony will be held for those 18 and older.
Biscayne National Park has hosted a number of similar ceremonies over the past few years, but these two days mark the largest numbers of new citizens the park has ever welcomed.
“National parks speak to who we are as a people and as a nation,” said Superintendent Brian Carlstrom. “Biscayne National Park is an ideal setting for such an important event.”
The naturalization ceremonies come on the heels of a federal judge in Texas ruling which temporarily blocks President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration and gave a coalition of 26 states time to pursue a lawsuit aiming to permanently stop the orders.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s decision late Monday puts on hold Obama’s orders that could spare from deportation as many as five million people who are in the U.S. illegally.
The first of Obama’s orders — to expand a program that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. illegally as children — was set to start taking effect Wednesday. The other major part of Obama’s order, which extends deportation protections to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for some years, was not expected to begin until May 19.
Hanen wrote in a memorandum accompanying his order that the lawsuit should go forward. Without a preliminary injunction, he said, the states would “suffer irreparable harm in this case.”
the White House defended the executive orders issued in November as within the president’s legal authority, saying the U.S. Supreme Court and Congress have said federal officials can establish priorities in enforcing immigration laws.
The U.S. Department of Justice plans to appeal Judge Hanen’s ruling, the White House said. The appeal will be heard by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
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