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Central Los Angeles : WELCOME, CITIZENS

Ruben Arteaga wiped away tears during a song that many Americans patiently abide while waiting for a baseball game to begin.

It was the first time the 62-year-old Mexico native had heard the “Star-Spangled Banner” as a citizen, and it overwhelmed him.

“I feel great, really. I’ve been looking forward to this day,” said Arteaga, who was one of 8,000 people who took the oath of citizenship at the Los Angeles Convention Center Downtown on Thursday.

“I’m convinced this is the greatest country in the whole world,” said Arteaga, a retired laboratory technician who has lived here for 47 years.

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The Immigration and Naturalization Service has begun holding monthly mass citizenship ceremonies in Los Angeles this year and expects to process 130,000 applicants--up from 90,000 last year and 45,000 the year before, according to INS spokesman Rico Cabrera.

Immigrants from 102 countries took the oath in two ceremonies Thursday, with the majority from Mexico, El Salvador, the Philippines, Vietnam and Iran, Cabrera said.


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