HAMMOND | As the nation celebrated its 236th birthday Wednesday, America gained 49 new citizens in a naturalization ceremony steeped in tradition.
“This is a Fourth of July you will never forget,” Mayor Thomas M. McDermott Jr. said. “Congratulations to our new citizens and the friends and families they love.”
Magistrate Judge Andrew Rodovich of the U.S. District Court Northern District of Indiana presided over the naturalization ceremony at Wolf Lake Pavilion that welcomed the new citizens who emigrated from 22 countries around the world.
Becoming a U.S. citizen on July 4, “means everything to me,” said Alaa Alzayed, of Crown Point, who left Syria to come to America in 2005.
Liljana Josevski, who came from Macedonia in 1992, echoed the same emotions.
“I’m happy and proud to become a citizen although it took me 20 years to get here,” she said.
Njeri Mary Karumbo first came to the U.S. from Kenya in the 1970s to study for her master’s degree in Kansas.
“I came back. It’s great. I’ve been really looking forward to this. It is a lifetime opportunity,” she said.
And Paulyn David, of Munster, said having her husband, Nathaniel, become a U.S. citizen means so much for their son, Luigi.
“My husband is from the Philippines,” she said. “It’s home to our son, so it’s home to him.”
The July 4 ceremony is organized by the Hammond Public Library. The welcoming of new citizens is governed by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, Rodovich said, adding the naturalization of immigrants as citizens is mentioned in both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
As prescribed by law, Frank Edson McLaren and Bruce Allen, Immigration Services officers with Homeland Security, testified each who applied for citizenship met all the necessary requirements. The two men presented each new citizen with a certificate after they had sworn the oath of allegiance to the U.S. led by U.S. District Court Chief Deputy Peggy Guernsey.