Juan Alvarez had been waiting two years to become a U.S. citizen and nine months to become a father.
They almost happened at the same time.
On Wednesday morning, about 1,500 soon-to-be-naturalized citizens and 1,000 friends and relatives were waiting in the cavernous Los Angeles Convention Center for the swearing-in ceremony.
Among them were Juan, who is a Mexican, and his wife, Maryann Alvarez--herself a U.S. citizen, and a very pregnant one at that.
"My wife's kinda stubborn," said Alvarez, 24, of Irvine, a U.S. Navy hospital corpsman. "Since we'd been waiting so long (for his citizenship), she wanted to come. And I said OK."
But federal Judge Consuelo B. Marshall, who would administer the oath to the crowd, was still a few minutes away when Mrs. Alvarez began feeling labor pangs, about 10 minutes apart.
The convention center's registered nurse, Audrey Hedlund, took her to the first aid station, and a staff member whisked her husband in to join her.
What do you want to do? they asked Juan Alvarez. "I think we can make both of them," the Navy man said, perhaps with more bravado than he felt.
At the same time, Allen Abersman, the chief deputy federal court clerk, waylaid Marshall at the door. "She was very happy to divert her path and turn right to the nurse's station."
Inside the first aid office, Mrs. Alvarez leaned against the wall and watched as her husband was sworn in as a citizen, up close and personal, by Judge Marshall.
"He was nervous," Hedlund said. "She had a contraction during the time he was taking the oath," Abersman said.
"The judge asked the wife, 'Are you really OK?' " Hedlund recalled.
"It was really a funny situation," mused Alvarez, who added that "it wasn't very difficult--I was just reading along with the judge."
And during it all, as an Immigration and Naturalization Service official tried to mollify the other 2,498 people by explaining what was going on, "they all applauded," Abersman said.
When the oath was complete and Alvarez had his citizenship certificate, the couple dashed off to their doctor in Irvine.
As of Wednesday night, the baby--a girl, who will be named Tanda Marie--had not yet been born. Perhaps today, Alvarez was told.
He was sworn in with a total of 3,800 others, including an Ecuador-born Army man who said he needed citizenship for a promotion to second lieutenant, a Trinidad-born Air Force senior airman and 18 Filipino World War II veterans, who were finally granted the long-delayed citizenship that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had promised back in 1942 to anyone who fought with the American forces.