LOS ANGELES — Glendale resident Edgar Torosyan clutched a small American flag on Thursday as he waited to take the oath that would declare him a United States citizen.
"This is a dream come true," said Torosyan, a Glendale resident who was a teenager when he immigrated to the United States from Armenia with his family 18 years ago. "We love it here. We call it home."
Torosyan was one of the 3,340 Southern California residents who packed the Los Angeles Convention Center on Thursday to be sworn in as U.S. citizens. He sat with his brother's wife, Larisa Nazaryan, and their friend, Markarid Garapetian, who also became citizens.
"I've been joking the past couple of days: I'm taking three residents and bringing back three citizens," said Torosyan's brother, Andranik, who said the day brought back memories of his own naturalization ceremony in 2002.
U.S. District Court Judge Carla Woehrle administered the citizenship oath to the thousands in the crowd who hailed from more than 100 countries. Mexico, Iran, Armenia and Korea, were among the most represented, officials said.
"It's a wonderful moment," Woehrle said as the new citizens and their families clapped, cheered and waved miniature American flags.
She listed a range of famous immigrants, including Albert Einstein and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and told the crowd it was following in the footsteps "of countless others, both prominent and humble."
More than 100,000 candidates for citizenship became naturalized citizens last fiscal year in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services District 23, which includes Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.
Woehrle urged them to enjoy the freedoms and privileges that would come with being a U.S. citizen, but also tasked them with fulfilling their important civic responsibilities, such as voting and serving on juries.
"Today, right now, you are all Americans and citizens in the fullest sense," she said.
For Glendale resident Irvins Gourgue, the ceremony, during which he was recognized for six years in the U.S. Navy, was a long time coming.
"It's about time for me," said Gourgue, a Haitian immigrant who has two children born in the United States. "I've been here 32 years."