Duluth courthouse welcomes proud new AmericansSchools were closed and the Twin Ports region was still digging out from one of the biggest snowstorms in recent memory, but nothing was going to stop a determined group of immigrants from gathering in Duluth on April 19.
Schools were closed and the Twin Ports region was still digging out from one of the biggest snowstorms in recent memory, but nothing was going to stop a determined group of immigrants from gathering in Duluth Friday, April 19.
Twenty-five immigrants from 19 countries were sworn in as U.S. citizens at a ceremony at the federal courthouse in Duluth as friends, family and co-workers looked on.
“I feel so excited to be a U.S. citizen,” said Jorge Gomez, a Mexican native who came to the United States in 2002. Gomez, who lives in Duluth, brought coworkers and family members who live in the area to witness the moment.
“It feels good to be an American,” he added.
During the half-hour ceremony, the immigrants took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, received their certificates of citizenship, and watched a video message from President Obama.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Leo Brisbois presided over the ceremony. He explained to the new citizens the rights and responsibilities that come along with citizenship.
The new citizens are now encompassed in “We the people” and it’s up to them to honor their communities and serve their neighbors,
“For some of us, citizenship comes easily through birth. We sometimes take our liberties for granted,” Brisbois told them. “I commend and applaud each of you (for taking the
steps to become citizens) and wish you the best of success. You can now say, ‘I am an American.’”
Brisbois also asked them to embrace the foundations of democracy and the Constitution: taxes, military service and even running for public office. But one point stands above the rest.
“Most importantly, vote,” he said. “That’s the single most important part of being a citizen.”
The League of Women Voters in Duluth was on hand to help the new citizens with that. They helped the immigrants register to vote, so they will be eligible at the next election.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for them,” said LWV volunteer Ellen Wiss, who came to the United States from Germany and was naturalized when she was 10. “It’s one less problem.”
Zainab Abdi, a Hibbing resident, came to the United States from Somalia five years ago. She said voting, among other liberties, inspired her to become naturalized as soon as she was eligible.
“I just wanted to have the same opportunities that others get,” she said. “It’s a nice feeling.”
The 25 new citizens were all brought together for the same purpose, but they form a worldly group.
Six continents were represented at the ceremony: Africa (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia and South Africa), Asia (Hong Kong, Philippines, South Korea and Yemen), Australia, Europe (Finland, Germany, Ireland, Romania, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom), North America (Mexico) and South America (Chile and Peru).
Most of the new citizens brought friends and family members to share the experience. As they were named, one by one during the ceremony, audience members jumped out of their courtroom seats, snapping photographs and waving during the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
It was an emotional scene in the jury box, where the new citizens were seated. Throughout the ceremony, some smiled. Some cried.
Others waved the mini American flags they received.
Sue Trboyevich of Grand Rapids waited 30 years to become a citizen. As her name was called and she received her certificate, she looked toward her husband Kim, and adult son Chris, and smiled.
“I’ve been working so hard for it for years,” said Trboyevich, a native of South Korea. “It’s overwhelming.”
Many of the new citizens said they spent several years working through the application process and studying. Each of them had to pass a citizenship test, which includes questions on American history and politics.
“I’m really proud of her,” Kim Trboyevich said of his wife. “She worked a lot to be able to accomplish this.”