As part of the national celebration of Independence Day, or the Fourth of July, the U.S. District Court for the NMI swore in 19 new U.S. citizens who can now officially bask in their newfound identities alongside other Americans.
During a special naturalization ceremony yesterday, U.S. District Court for the NMI Magistrate Judge Heather Kennedy administered the oath of citizenship for the 19 new Americans: Elena Galvez Aguon, Cosette Marian Empleo Ayuyu, Olivia Reyes Bateman, Jinky Sevilla Browne, Marilou Cando Carlos, Marjorie Nacional Castro, Michelle Saludares Cuellar, Melba Badal Darag, Elenita and Juanito Manlabao, Lorenzo Malbas Oboza, Conrado Parera Pascual, Sandy Bernardo Quemado, Concepcion Aureo Reyes, Clarence Joy Sandajan Santos, Ronald Santa Cruz Saturno, Betty Nora Swasty Sirait, Teodora Borja Soriano, and Elna Madurar Tighe.
In speaking to the new citizens, Kennedy said she recognizes and celebrates the effort and utter determination that brought each and everyone of the new citizens to the final leg of their journey to becoming citizens.
“I always say, you more than my children, more than myself, truly understand how important it is to become a citizen of the United States and how important the individual freedoms are. You fought to become a U.S. citizen. You may have spent many, many years trying to become a U.S. citizen. So you have spent your time, your effort, and your determination. I am [honored] to administer the oath of citizenship, and helping you complete that last step in your journey,” she said.
One of the 19 new citizens, Sirait, a former citizen of Indonesia, shared that her first act as a U.S. citizen is to become a merchant mariner for either the U.S. Navy or the U.S. government.
“I have merchant marine credentials. Now being a U.S. citizen, I can work on any ship. That’s my dream. I can apply right now and start working for the Navy or a government ship,” she said.
Sirait, the wife of retired U.S. Navy Capt. Michael Bacher, started her journey to becoming a U.S. citizen back in 2014 when her husband was stationed on Saipan and has been here ever since. She was the sole Indonesian national to recite the oath of citizenship yesterday among 18 former Philippine citizens.
In closing the ceremony, guest speaker Michael S. Sablan, Civilian Aid to the Secretary of the Army, congratulated each new citizen on completing their citizenship journey.
He shared that, although his journey to becoming a U.S. citizen may have been easier, he too faced some struggles along the way to becoming a citizen and is excited for all the new opportunities they will now be able to experience.
“Like you all, I did not grow up as a U.S. citizen. I went to school abroad to seek a college education as a foreign student. I wasn’t privy to many benefits that U.S. citizens were provided. I paid higher tuition costs. I had a hard time finding work as a non-citizen. Well, all that changed 90 days when citizenship was granted to our Commonwealth, thanks to our relationship with the United States. While my journey toward gaining citizenship may look different, I think in many ways my journey was much easier, I know some of you worked hard on getting citizenship. It is the same citizenship that we now enjoy together today. It is the same citizenship that defines and binds us together as Americans and offers each of us the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Because I remember what it was like before I became an American citizen, I reflect very often on my citizenship and appreciate all that he has done for me and my family, our community, and our country,” he said.
Sablan appealed to the new citizens to not only enjoy the many freedoms the U.S. offers, but to also carry out their new duties as citizens like voting.
“Our strength as a country does not rely solely on our leaders or those who put on the uniform to serve our country. The strength of our country relies heavily on us, you and I as citizens of good character committed to preserving all good things that make us a great country. Our country needs our help. One of the most important tools available to us as citizens is our right to vote. So my appeal to you is to go get registered. Once you register, go make your voices heard,” he said.