Refugee celebrates July 4th for the first time as a U.S. citizen

Refugee celebrates July 4th for the first time as a U.S. citizen
Oscar Castano-Gomez, a refugee helped by the International Rescue Committee, poses with his naturalization certificate. (Source: WVIR)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Fourth of July Celebrations are different for many around central Virginia this year, but for some this year’s celebrations are even more special than usual. One refugee in Charlottesville is celebrating Independence Day for the first time as a United States citizen.

Oscar Castaño-Gomez’ path to citizenship has been a long and winding road. Born in Medellin, Colombia, Oscar was forced to flee his home due to the violence of the civil war that has been raging for 56 years and counting as well as government corruption.

“When I make a claim for rights....This is a problem for government,” Oscar explained.

Oscar fled to Ecuador in 2008. From there the International Rescue Committee helped him achieve refugee status in the United States in 2014. Now, more than 12 years since he left Colombia, he’s a U.S. Citizen.

“Wonderful, happy, happy. This is a blessing for my God,” Oscar said, describing his feelings at his naturalization ceremony. “For the citizenship, I am very happy.”

While Oscar became a citizen in January, before coronavirus shut down in-person ceremonies, for some the naturalization ceremony will take place this weekend. In past years, Monticello has hosted the ceremonies at Thomas Jefferson’s historic home as part of larger July Fourth celebrations. This year, Monticello’s celebration will be virtual...featuring speakers like Chef Jose Andres and professor Annette Gordon-Reed. Celebrating apart, but still celebrating their new citizenship together.

“I no see corruption, this is more guaranteed,” Oscar said. “For my life, I’m feeling good.”

Oscar says he hopes to one day bring his sons, sisters and brothers to Charlottesville. That process could take years.

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