AP NEWS

New chapter in ‘story of America’

March 3, 2018 GMT

Dozens of the country’s newest citizens were welcomed in a ceremony Friday in Fort Wayne.

Magistrate Susan Collins presided over the naturalization ceremony for 47 people representing 15 countries on five continents in a packed second-floor courtroom at the E. Ross Adair Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse.

Right hands raised, they took an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies. They held the same hands over their hearts as they recited the Pledge of Allegiance after receiving certificates of citizenship and small American flags.

“The story of America, ladies and gentlemen, is the story of immigrants,” said Collins, whose grandparents emigrated to the U.S. from Lithuania. “We are truly a nation of immigrants.

“This is what makes our country so unique among the nations of the world.”

In the first of six ceremonies planned this year, new citizens sang the national anthem and were given booklets about the flag by members of the local chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution.

After, participants hugged family members and friends : still clutching their citizenship paperwork.

“I’ve been here 44 years,” said Jose Hernandez, 51, a former Mexico resident who said his parents brought him to the U.S. “for a better life.”

Why did he want to become a citizen?

“To get involved in our freedoms,” he said, “to have a decision on law-making.”

Collins called the process to earn citizenship “long and difficult.”

Claudia Russell, who was born in Mexico, started filling out her paperwork seven years ago. She has been in the U.S. for 17 years and said she came here to escape violence in her native country.

“This country changed my life,” Russell said.

Mary Rose, 18, came to the U.S. from Thailand a decade ago.

“It’s a peaceful place,” she said.

mleblanc@jg.net