February 9, 2013
New Americans welcomed
Wearing a head scarf and holding her 2-year-old daughter, Fatima Azzahra Katane and her husband, Abdelhamid, became American citizens at a Naturalization Ceremony Friday at the Cortland County Courthouse.
The couple from Morocco has lived in Ithaca for six years, and they were excited to become American citizens.
Abdelhamid said he could not wait to vote, and his wife said becoming an American citizen “means everything. It’s a new life.”
The couple were among 41 people from 26 countries who became United States citizens at the ceremony, taking an oath to adhere to the U.S. Constitution, protect America from threats and forsake political ties to their countries of origin.
Supreme Court Justice Phillip Rumsey, presiding over the ceremony, spoke to the point of how citizens now pledge sole allegiance to the United States. Rumsey pointed out that this does not mean people must forget their cultural customs and traditions.
“We as a nation have greatly benefited from the preservation of cultural traditions, dress, music ...,” said Rumsey. He pointed out that each new citizen will bring to America their own strengths, making America stronger through a diverse background of experiences and customs.
But the new citizens pledge to uphold the constitution and work with their country to achieve their goals for successful lives, liberty and peace. These things are not promised, he said.
“We provide the opportunity to pursue your goals and dreams on an equal basis,” said Rumsey. The pursuit of happiness is offered but happiness is not guaranteed and peace is not guaranteed either, only the opportunity to work to secure peace, he said.
Applicants must be at least 18 years old, of good moral character and swear an oath of allegiance to the United States.
They are tested on their knowledge of U.S. government and must be able to read, write and speak English, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
Cortland residents Kevin Puukila, of Canada and his wife, Divina, of the Philippines, said they were touched by both Friday’s ceremony when Divina became a citizen and the one in November when Kevin was naturalized.
“I did not expect such a special welcome to the United States,” said Divina, adding that the reception is intimate and makes each new citizen feel like he or she will be an important member of the country.
The couple met in Philadelphia, where they both went to college, and each journeyed toward citizenship.
Divina said the freedom in America means the most to her and the equality of its citizens.
“The United States (is) a refuge for people trying to find a shelter other than where they come from, ... and gives opportunities to get to become what everyone else is,” said Divina.
These aspects make America particularly unique, she said.
Hayder Assad of Iraq has been a resident of Ithaca for five years. He was supported Friday by his wife, Masar Albayati, and 6-year-old daughter, Salwa, and 4-year-old son, Ali.
Assad described Ithaca as a loving community and said he and his family have been treated well. He wanted to be able to call United States home.
Cortland resident Mike Ngo of Vietnam said the same thing.
He said he can now live in another country and added he felt excited but a little cold in the snowy weather.
Another Ithaca resident, Remy Tumbar of Romania, said he lived for 20 years under a communist regime so his new citizenship in America is especially meaningful.
He said he and his wife have been in America for 18 years, eight of them in Ithaca. He applied for citizenship in November and said his wife is still waiting for her interviews in the naturalization process.
“It’s special because I really appreciate having the opportunity to speak my voice and to be myself,” Tumbar said.
To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe