14 take oath as new US citizens

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona, seated center, immigration services officer Shelia Kelty, front right, and Janet H. King, front left, pose for a group photo with the 14 new U.S. citizens after a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. District Court for the NMI yesterday. (Ferdie De La Torre)

For Jessa Jade Seclon Cruz, taking her oath yesterday as a new U.S. citizen means she can now vote in the Commonwealth.

“I’m very glad and so happy,” said the 33-year-old Cruz, who originally hailed from the Philippines and first came to Saipan on May 29, 2006, and is married to Tinian and Aguiguan Sen. Francisco Q. Cruz.

Roque Tolentino Feliciano, 63, cited the same reason, saying he is excited about voting in the Nov. 6 election.

Feliciano, who hailed from Aklan, Philippines, used to work as a merchant marine officer. He first arrived on Saipan in 2005 to work for G4S.

Feliciano said he waited for more than 10 years to finally obtain his American citizenship, which he got because of his marriage to a U.S. citizen.

Feliciano has been working as a power plant operator at the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.

Jessa Cruz and Feliciano were among the 14 who took their oaths as new U.S. citizens in a naturalization ceremony yesterday morning in the U.S. District Court for the NMI.

Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona presided over the ceremony. Immigration Services officer Shelia Kelty presented the 14 new citizens.

The new U.S. citizens are from the Philippines, Bangladesh, China, Nepal, and South Korea. There were supposed to be 16 but two were absent yesterday.

Manglona said that this year alone, there are now 115 naturalized citizens in the CNMI, including the 14 new ones.

Keynote speaker Janet H. King urged the new citizens to exercise their responsibilities. “I call on you to do something that is bigger than yourself, because as an American, a citizen of the greatest country in the world, you are a part of something bigger than just you,” said King, who handles many immigration cases.

King said democracy is not a spectator sport.

“You don’t just sit, you stand. You don’t just watch, you act. You don’t just hear, you, too, use your voice and be heard.”

King’s mother was born in 1942 in South Korea, where she lived her whole life until she married a Tinian resident in 1975. King’s mother was in her 30’s by the time she came to live on Tinian.

“My mother, like many of you here, lived for many years like an American, but not an American, even though her husband, my father, and her two children were United States citizens,” King said.

King said that, like many of the new citizens, by being in America, her mother was able to seize the opportunities America gave her and her father to build a better life for the family, especially for her and her sister.

King said she was in school on the day her mother was naturalized 20 years after she married her father.

“I can only imagine—through the look in your eyes and your family’s and friend’s presence here today—how excited and happy you must feel,” she said.

“Today, celebrate. Today, you have much to celebrate: You are new citizens of the greatest country in the world,” King said.

King won the Miss CNMI Universe title in 2001.

Aside from Cruz and Feliciano, the 12 other new citizens are Jul Eve Quilantang Celis, Jesus Gantan De Jesus, Danilo Justo Guzarem, Ziaul Haque, Teresita Tesoro Lacorte, Guolan Zong Leung, Jameria Esguerra Paras, Nancy Espeleta Russell, Ruby De Guzman Sablan, Hyun Tag Seo, Rajendra Shrestha, and Evelyn Esteban Villanueva.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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