Amer­ica grows by 49

Al­len­town judge ad­min­is­ters cit­i­zen­ship oath to im­mi­grants from 21 coun­tries

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Daniel Pa­trick Shee­han

That ven­er­a­ble Amer­i­can for­mula, e pluribus unum — out of many, one — came to vivid life Wed­nes­day in the court­room of Le­high County Judge Ed­ward Reib­man. He ad­min­is­tered the oath of cit­i­zen­ship to 49 men and women, who for­swore al­le­giance to for­eign princes and po­ten­tates, cheered, cried and headed back into

the late af­ter­noon sun with hand-held flags and Lib­erty Bell pins as to­kens of the day.

Egypt. Mex­ico. Colom­bia. Kaza­khstan. The Philip­pines. In­dia. South Korea. Syria. In all, these new­est Amer­i­cans came from 21 coun­tries. That in­cluded Canada, which re­mains a for­eign coun­try de­spite the Amer­i­can ten­dency to think of it as the pleas­ant neigh­bor up­stairs.

“The chil­dren are Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and it was time for mom to be one as well,” said Su­san Gall, a na­tive of Hamil­ton, On­tario, who mar­ried her Amer­i­can hus­band, Mark, 11 years ago. They own a farm in Washington Town­ship and are rais­ing a daugh­ter, Wil­low, and two sons, Xavier and Ulysses.

The chil­dren played Si­mon Says and other games in the court­house lobby as

their mother went through some pre­cer­e­mo­nial dou­ble-check­ing of names and num­bers on the reams of pa­per­work foun­da­tional to the cit­i­zen­ship process and sur­ren­dered her Law­ful Per­ma­nent Res­i­dent Card — bet­ter known as a green card.

Last year, more than 756,000 peo­ple were nat­u­ral­ized as U.S. cit­i­zens. The process takes time — five years of le­gal res­i­dency, to be­gin with — and de­mands a grasp of the English lan­guage and of Amer­i­can his­tory.

“I re­mem­ber we would hear about Amer­ica, the land of op­por­tu­nity,” said Alyssa Sul­tana Harmony, hold­ing her 2-mon­thold son, Carter, and re­flect­ing on her early life in Trinidad and Tobago.

Her par­ents left that Caribbean repub­lic when Harmony was 8. They came to Mi­ami, then north to the Po­conos, where her fa­ther found work.

“You get here and it’s the big­gest strug­gle,” said Harmony, 27. “It’s worth it.”

Seven Scouts from Girl Scout Troop 63403 in White­hall pre­sented the flags to be­gin the cer­e­mony. Reib­man greeted the pe­ti­tion­ers by not­ing their di­ver­sity — in fa­cial fea­tures, skin tone, forms of dress. He sur­mised most would have dis­tinc­tive ac­cents and sto­ries to tell about the coun­tries they left or, in some cases, fled.

“It’s very in­ter­est­ing that with all those dif­fer­ences we have, we’re all to­gether here for a com­mon pur­pose,” he said. “Dif­fer­ences his­tor­i­cally have made this coun­try bet­ter. It’s up to you to em­brace this coun­try and make it bet­ter.”

He told them to par­tic­i­pate in civic life, regis­ter to vote and pay their taxes — “Taxes, by the way, pay my salary,” he quipped — and urged them to think about ways to im­prove the coun­try.

“All four of my grand­par­ents were im­mi­grants,” he told them. “None had a for­mal ed­u­ca­tion, but the op­por­tu­ni­ties were here. And now their grand­son sits as a judge, swear­ing in new cit­i­zens. To me, that’s what this coun­try’s about. Free­dom and op­por­tu­nity.”

Af­ter the oath had been taken and the cer­tifi­cates and other mem­o­ra­bilia pre­sented, Luis En­rique Justo Vasquez stood out­side the court­room, beam­ing. He had come to Al­len­town from the Do­mini­can Repub­lic at age 11 with his fa­ther, Jose, and broth­ers, then waited two lonely years un­til his mother, Anna, was able to join them.

His par­ents couldn’t be at the cer­e­mony. Both had to work. But Vasquez had a size­able cheer­ing sec­tion. The man tak­ing his photo with a long-lens cam­era turned out to be his boss, Lee Butz, whose con­struc­tion com­pany has built a great deal of Al­len­town.

“He’s the star of the place,” said Butz, who hired Vasquez to the se­cu­rity depart­ment.

Vasquez’s broad smile grew even broader. He mused on the mean­ing of cit­i­zen­ship, and summed it up in a life les­son im­parted a long time ago.

“My grand­fa­ther taught us to make other peo­ple’s lives bet­ter,” he said. “That’s what I want to do.”

Morn­ing Call re­porter Daniel Pa­trick Shee­han can be reached at 610-820-6598 or dshee­[email protected]


Hwa­sung Im, left, of Breinigvil­le, takes a selfie with her son Mark Im, 6, on Wed­nes­day dur­ing a nat­u­ral­iza­tion cer­e­mony at the Le­high County Court­house in Al­len­town. More than 40 in­di­vid­u­als be­came U.S. cit­i­zens.


San­dra Kabiru, left, orig­i­nally from Nige­ria, smiles as she re­ceives a cer­tifi­cate from Judge Ed­ward Reib­man on Wed­nes­day dur­ing a nat­u­ral­iza­tion cer­e­mony at the Le­high County Court­house in Al­len­town.

Alyssa Harmony, of Al­len­town and orig­i­nally from Trinidad and Tobago, holds her 2-month-old baby Carter while tak­ing the oath.

Su­san Gall, from Hamil­ton, On­tario, left, smiles as she re­ceives her cer­tifi­cate of achieve­ment from Al­t­a­gra­cia Mer­cado, ur­ban af­fairs li­ai­son for state Sen. Pat Browne’s of­fice.

A newly nat­u­ral­ized Amer­i­can cit­i­zen holds an Amer­i­can flag.

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