New citizens celebrate at the naturalization ceremony held as part of Immigrant Heritage Month at the Free Library of Philadelphia on June 11. Photo: Rivka Pruss / AL DÍA News
New citizens celebrate at the naturalization ceremony held as part of Immigrant Heritage Month at the Free Library of Philadelphia on June 11. Photo: Rivka Pruss / AL DÍA News

51 immigrants become new U.S. citizens


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Becoming a U.S. citizen is a process that can be long and expensive. On June 11, 51 immigrants were inducted as U.S. citizens into the framework of our country, giving them the right to vote and other privileges.

The naturalization ceremony was held at the Free Library of Philadelphia, which provides a variety of resources for the immigrant community — including programs such as Edible Alphabet, a series of classes designed for English-language learners to gain language and literacy skills through cooking.

The ceremony was held in partnership between the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Office of Immigrant Affairs, the Office of LGBT Affairs and the Free Library of Philadelphia as part of Immigrant Heritage Month, a national celebration of immigrants and their contributions to the country.

The naturalization ceremony included an oath of allegiance, where the 51 new U.S. citizens — hailing from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Peru, and 24 other countries — swore allegiance to the United States.

Some of the language of this oath of allegiance dates back to when the first naturalization laws were passed in 1790, according to Brian Minty, the supervisory immigration services officer at the USCIS Philadelphia field office.

One of the new U.S. citizens, Diana Jimenez, a 24-year-old who will be attending medical school in the fall, reflected on what U.S. citizenship means to her.

“It feels great. My family came here when I was eight years old from Peru. It makes me proud of everything we have endured and accomplished,” Jimenez said. “A long process, so it's the goal, the finish line."

For Jimenez, it was important to become a citizen prior to attending medical school and becoming a doctor. But due to the prohibitive cost of pursuing naturalization, she had waited several years to start going through the process.

Amar Bessedik, another new U.S. citizen who had first come to the country from Algeria in 2010, shared Jimenez’s pride in the U.S.

"I am very happy to be a United States citizen. It's a great achievement. I like the values of Americans. I always believed in democracy and fair and justice, all the good values for human beings, so that's why I like the United States,” Bessedik said.

A musical group called Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture gave a nod to immigrants from the Middle East with their performance, which featured rhythms from the region, such as Syria and Egypt.

Keynote speaker Kingston Ou He, policy fellow, Mayor’s Office of LGTB Affairs, shared a poem from an immigrant from Somalia, titled “Home,” which included the lines:

no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark

you only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well

The poem illuminates the fact that many immigrants, like Bessedik, come to the United States in search of freedom.

After the oath of allegiance, each new U.S. citizen was welcomed onto the stage by Minty to receive their certificates of naturalization.

Kingston Ou He shared his own immigration story. Ou He was born in a refugee camp from Cambodia, and spoke about how as both an immigrant and a member of the LGBTQ community, his identity has been a source of power to inspire change. He offered hope to the new citizens gathered in the room.

“There are dreams that can be caught here in a place I call home now,” Ou He said. “Just know that you are home and that we are all family and we are in this together. You are never invisible, you are not invisible now, nor will you ever be.”

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