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Italian scientists first to become citizens at new CIS office

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

It was a fitting setting for two married Italian scientists who wanted to become U.S. citizens.

At Thursday’s opening of the new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Albuquerque, Milena Veneziani and Gennaro D’Angelo took the oath and became naturalized citizens. They both work at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

And Thursday’s ceremony was held in a room that was dedicated the same day to another Italian scientist with a LANL connection: Enrico Fermi.

Fermi was an Italian immigrant who became an American citizen – and a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. He worked on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos and is regarded as “the architect of the Atomic Age.”

Thursday’s naturalization ceremony was the first for the new CIS branch, on Mercantile NE near Interstate 25 and Montgomery.

Jesse Mendez, the director of the Albuquerque field office, said the newer offices will allow the agency to more efficiently process applications for citizenship.

Regarding Thursday’s ceremony, Mendez said, “I think having the special luck to naturalize these two citizens who have contributed not only to the community but the nation as a whole with the work they do as scientists, it was a tremendous opportunity.”

The two scientists have known each other since 1990, and their relationship has spanned continents. D’Angelo said that for years they would spend only a month or two together each year while they worked in different places.

In 1999, Veneziani moved to the United States to work on her Ph.D. at the University of Miami. She is a physical oceanographer.

D’Angelo is an astrophysicist and worked in Europe until he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006. His wife then took a job in California.

The couple moved to Los Alamos near the end of 2011. They have two daughters, ages 4 and 9, who were born in the U.S.

Veneziani and D’Angelo first had temporary visas and then became permanent residents before starting the naturalization process this year, D’Angelo said.

“We’ve been here for a number of years, and we intend to stay here,” D’Angelo said. “It was a natural course of action.”

Mendez said the number of applicants at the Albuquerque CIS field office has increased steadily in the past four years. Each day, the Albuquerque office interviews about 40 naturalization applicants and 50 people trying to adjust the status of their green cards.

“I think this is the most rewarding part of our jobs,” Mendez said of the naturalization ceremonies that conclude the citizenship process.

U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo presided over Thursday’s ceremony.

“I believe so strongly we have to have reminders … in our lives about the value of citizenship,” she said.