All-State singer welcomes new citizens into United States

Junior Julia Grey sings as an alto in All City choir concert with the concert choir in April.

Every year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) welcomes about 700,000 immigrants into the United States with the naturalization or citizenship process. On April 17, the University of Northern Iowa hosted its eighth naturalization ceremony with over 125 people gaining citizenship. Junior Julia Grey grew up around multiple cultures and honored them in her own way that day, through her voice. Grey sang the most patriotic of songs, the national anthem. 

“It was last minute when I arrived and didn’t hit me that I was going to be in such an important moment for so many people. There were over 125 people there becoming citizens and over 500 people for them who were citizens and noncitizens,” Grey said. 

Grey is an accomplished alto, and a two-time all-state voice performer. 

Tiny American flags were sprinkled around the room, held by each citizen awaiting their rightful place in. 

“Everyone was patriotic in the right way. They weren’t nationalistic or over patriotic, the perfect amount,” she said. 

Grey attended her first naturalization ceremony when a university student from Mexico that her family had hosted successfully applied for American citizenship. 

“We met Venus’ family when we went to Mexico, and she came to live with us to finish her degree here in the U.S. and now is a citizen. She is basically a member of my family,” she said. 

Venus met her husband Jalloh, an African immigrant from Sierra Leone, when he lived down the street at another host family’s house. He later became a U.S. citizen, and they married in 2014. Now, they have a child, Fatimah, a thriving life in Iowa, and remain close to Grey’s family.

Grey learned the meaning of what America means to her when she got to see a brief moment into the new American citizens’ lives. 

“It kind of reminds me of what our country actually means. There is all of this debate if immigrants should or should not be in this country, but it reminds me that we truly are a country made up of immigrants. This is what America is about, despite what people in office might say,” Grey said. 

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