Private Property sign in foreground with beach behind it | Still from "Access Denied" on SoCal Connected

The New Citizens

Normally Los Angeles conducts naturalization ceremonies for groups of anywhere from 900 to 3,500 applicants. On September 11, we witnessed 18,000 immigrants became US citizens, one of the very last groups to become naturalized in time to register to vote in the 2008 presidential election.

The Los Angeles Convention Center was transformed into a US District courtroom for the day, and as the new citizens filed out of the building, the LA County Registrar's Office sent a team of staffers to demystify the voting registration process and to make sure these newly minted Americans took full advantage of one of the most important aspects of citizenship.



It was while filming the multilingual team on the frontlines of helping new voters that we were introduced to Luz Tayao, a 31 year veteran of the registrar's office who on that day had herself finally become eligible to vote. Clearly moved by the swearing in ceremony and her dual role that day as citizen and government employee, she graciously took time out to tell us what was going through her mind. She told us that even though she had watched the same video of president Bush congratulating new citizens countless times through the years, his words took on a whole new significance for her that day. She struggled to hold back tears before changing into her uniform and going back to the business of registering new voters, this time as a fellow American herself.

For more information about the naturalization process click here.

For the first time since it was created in 1986, the Naturalization exam that all potential citizens must take has just been redesigned. Starting this month, all new applicants will be required to take the new test which is widely regarded to be tougher and more confusing. Why the overhaul? The goal says the US Citizenship and Immigration Services is to help applicants learn more about their rights and responsibilities. The application fee also recently increased to $675.

Want to test yourself? Here's a sample test.

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