For Rosebellah Jerop Smith, of Kenya, obtaining her U.S. citizenship after being on Saipan since 2006 doing humanitarian work is meaningful.
“I'm proud to be an American,” the 38-year-old Smith told Saipan Tribune shortly after she and 15 others took their oath to become the newest U.S. citizens during yesterday's naturalization ceremony held at the U.S. District Court for the NMI.
Smith is married to Dr. Joel Smith of the Commonwealth Health Center. She is currently the director of Empty Vessel Ministry Foundation.
Mrs. Smith said the foundation's mission is to raise funds to support children for their school supplies and orphans, women, and families in need on Saipan, Kenya, the Philippines, and Bangladesh.
Mrs. Smith said now that she is a U.S. citizen she will be doing more humanitarian work not only on Saipan, but also in other countries.
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona administered the oath to Mrs. Smith and 15 others.
The 15 other newest U.S. citizens are Loreto Millano Presto, Rosemarie Labustro Guirit, Eletra Morales Ritumalta, Xiaohua Jiang Kramer, Lolita Rubia Agulto, Jesus Santos Arriola, Mikie Mihara Chong, Cherry David Cope, Pushpadevi Mohan Hemlani, Margarita Decena Hofschneider, Amelia Vergara Mendiola, Roberto Laxamana Mendoza, Angelina Lumabas Pacala, Roberto Panotes Pacala, and Pattana Wetthaisong Raulerson.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officer Diane Zedde presented to the court the 16 petitioners, who are originally from the Philippines, People's Republic of China, India, Kenya, Japan, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Thailand.
One candidate-Xin Mei Zeng-failed to attend the ceremony.
Invited students from the Public School System observed the special ceremony. Acting Chief Justice Alexandro C. Castro served as the guest speaker.
For 67-year-old Loreto Millano Presto, acquiring U.S. citizenship means easier off-island travel and getting more benefits.
Presto, a native of Tarlac, Philippines, is currently working as a warehouse worker at Yaong Wholesale Corp. He came to Saipan on May 23, 1989 as a construction worker. He married Antonia Aldan in 2004.
“I'm happy and proud to be a U.S. citizen,” Mr. Presto said.
Xiaohua Jiang Kramer, 37, of China, said she feels very excited with the oath-taking and was also very emotional after being conferred U.S. citizenship.
Kramer said she is very lucky and privilege to live in a country like the U.S.
Kramer completed college at the Guangzhou University and came to Saipan to work as a translator/interpreter in 2004. She was married in 2007.
For 68-year-old Eletra Ritumalta, to be a U.S. citizen is overwhelming because it's a dream come true for her.
Ritumalta, a native of Pangasinan, Philippines, arrived on the island in 1990 to work as a food assembler.
Ritumalta's husband, Salvador Ritumalta, a Filipino, became a U.S. citizen because he came to the island in 1973 and thus, covered by the Covenant. The couple have two children, both also U.S. citizens.
For Rosemarie Guirit, a legal secretary, “there is nothing impossible in America just like God.”
“It's a meaningful one for me,” said the 38-year-old Guirit, a native of Surigao Del Sur, Philippines.
“I'm happy, emotional. It's a joyful day,” she said.
Guirit said with her new citizenship it will be easier to travel. She, however, acknowledged that along with the citizenship comes great responsibility too.
“We also have to give and serve,” she said, adding whatever a person's citizenship or status in life, “everyone is equal before the eyes of God,”
Guirit first came to the island in February 1997 to work as a kitchen helper in a restaurant. She married in 2001, but eventually got divorced. Her child is now 13 years old.
Yesterday's ceremony was part of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' annual celebration of Constitution and Citizenship days.
More than 32,000 candidates will become or became citizens at 158 ceremonies across the country from Sept. 14 to 22, 2012.