On Friday, August 2, 2019, at 11:20 a.m. Dagoberto Argueta, a native of El Salvador, became Rappahannock County’s newest citizen. 

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Dagoberto "DIego" Argueta (right) poses with the Honorable Joel C. Hoppe, United States Magistrate Judge, after taking the oath of citizenship last Friday in Charlottesville.

Argueta, known as “Diego” to friends and employers in the community, took the oath of citizenship along with 35 other immigrants in a courtroom of the U.S. District Court in Charlottesville. In response to the direction of the Honorable Joel C. Hoppe, United States Magistrate Judge, all the applicants stood and raised their right hands to swear: 

I hereby declare an oath that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

The many family members and friends, some with tears in their eyes, who filled the courtroom applauded as Judge Hoppe congratulated the new citizens on their hard work and achievement. The judge then solicited comments from the newly sworn-in. Three gentlemen rose to give thanks for the support they had received in reaching this goal and to praise their new country and its values.

Then all stood with the new citizens to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Esther Page from the Office of Congressman Denver Riggleman. Inspirational remarks preceded the oath with greetings from Gwen Mason, Regional Director for United States Senator Tim Kaine; Sam Louis Taylor, Regional Director for United States Senator Mark Warner; and Walid Chami, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Officer. While waiting for the ceremony, attendees enjoyed a reception with pastries and lemonade, offered by two representatives of the Albemarle Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. 

Judge Hoppe spoke at length about the United States, “a nation of immigrants,” and listed a sample of the many immigrants who made significant contributions to our country such as Albert Einstein and Felix Frankfurter.

The path to this morning was a long one for these 36 people from 22 countries and six continents (none came from Antarctica). Young and old, with spouses and children and grandchildren in the audience, each prospective citizen completed the demanding process that led to the final oath. In addition to lengthy, complicated paperwork and multiple trips to the immigration office in Arlington, applicants had to pass the Citizenship Test. They studied the 100 questions and the set of acceptable answers. The questions, which can be found at uscis.gov, include the subjects of American government, history, geography, and even holidays.

Some examples of the questions are: Name one of the two longest rivers in the United States. During the Cold War, what was the main concern of the United States? Who was President during World War I? What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803? The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers. When was the Constitution written? What are two rights of every citizen in America? Who is Speaker of the House?

Diego studied extensively for this test. He learned all the alternate answers to each question and was disappointed when he went in for his test, which is administered orally, and the test administrator asked him only a sample of the questions and accepted any one of the multiple acceptable answers. He responded to all the questions correctly. 

Woodville resident Thom Pellikaan, who helped Diego prepare, knew that Diego had mastered the study guide. “He recited all the possible answers to each of the 100 questions. In January, after returning from a trip to visit some family members in El Salvador, he was momentarily alarmed when I told him his answer to the question about the Speaker of the House was incorrect. ‘It is Paul Ryan,’ he said. ‘No,’ I answered, ‘it is now Nancy Pelosi.’ He made a note.”

No one who knows Diego is surprised by his thorough and conscientious preparation for American citizenship. He is known for his work ethic and attention to detail. Rappahannock’s Henry B. Wood describes him as “a hard-working young man of integrity” and “a good addition to our community.” 

Along with Diego’s wife, four of his employers and friends attended the ceremony, Larry and Kathy Grove, Rosita McKee and Pellikaan. They appreciated the serious and celebratory tone of the morning. 

“Everyone should attend one of these ceremonies [held in Charlottesville once or twice a month],” said Larry Grove. “It was inspiring and reminds us of why we are proud to be Americans.”

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