BU News Service
Muslim women in their colorful headscarves, Nepali women in their traditional long tunics and bindis, European and Brazilian men in their best suits, all clutching tiny American flags, filed their way into a makeshift courtroom at Faneuil Hall on the warm Thursday afternoon of Sept. 13 to swear allegiance to United States of America as it’s newest citizens.
The one hour ceremony ended with the issuance of certificates of naturalization. These certificates can then be used to register to vote temporarily until the new citizens have their passports issued. Senior U.S. District Court Judge Rya H. Zobel, herself an immigrant and later a naturalized citizen from Zwickau, Germany, presided over the ceremony and administered the oath of allegiance.
355 people hailing from 61 countries around the world are officially the last ones in Massachusetts to earn the right to vote before the election in November. October 19 is the last day to register to vote.
“I come from a political family in the island country of Republic Of Cabo Verde and understand that it is my duty and my privilege to vote for the next president,” Abdul Amado, a healthcare practitioner residing in Brockton, said.
Abdul’s friend and mentor Carlos Fortes Lopes, a staunch Democrat, motivated Abdul to apply for his citizenship and was present with him for his naturalization. “I had planned to run for the president of Cabo Verde myself someday,” said Carlos, “but I came here in 1988 and decided to stay.” Carlos himself just registered to vote a month before when he received his own citizenship.
Carlos Fortes Lopes, a recently registered voter, said the recent political turmoil in America and the insecurity rising from the narrative against immigrants, has moved a lot of his friends from Brockton and the surrounding areas to apply for citizenship in the last year. According to the report published by the Department of Homeland Security, the number of legal immigrants applying to become citizens increased by 23 percent on an average from 2015 to 2016.
“Me and Hari came here in 2010 for work but decided to pursue a career here to provide a higher quality education for our children,” Sabita, a Dunkin’ Donuts employee in Cape Cod, said. Sabita was born in Kathamandu, the capital city of Nepal and became a citizen last month. She joined her husband, Hari, at the induction ceremony at Faneuil Hall Thursday.
“We try to visit as much as we can but I haven’t been back [to Nepal] since 2013. This country has become my home now,” she said. Sabita has already registered to vote and said she is planning to ensure that her husband does the same.
After the ceremony, the new citizens were met with volunteers and staff handing out information on how to get a passport and how to register to vote. This was followed by an annual reception hosted by The Armenian Heritage Society to welcome the new citizens at the Armenian Heritage Park.
Rya H. Zobel,federal judge for the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, delivered a speech at the Heritage Park about her journey to citizenship and welcomed the new citizens into what she said was the biggest experiment in self-government.
“You are all now citizens and behave like that. Maintain vigilance, preserve the liberty of this country, and participate in the government,” she said. “You too have a stake now in the self government of this country.”
Zobel ended her address by welcoming each of the new citizens to this nation and reminded them to register to vote.
“Take an active part in the political and public life of this country,” she said.