Federal prosecutor James Benedetto served as a guest speaker at a naturalization ceremony for 40 new U.S. citizens last Friday—his last day with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“I am the proud son of immigrants,” said Benedetto, who disclosed that his grandparents came to America from Southern Italy in the early 20th century.
“As we have all heard many times, America is a nation of immigrants,” Benedetto said, noting that even the ancestors of native Americans migrated from Asia some 20,000 years ago across the Bering Strait during the last ice age and established enduring civilizations, cultures, and traditions from Alaska to South America.
More recently, he said, starting in the 17th century and up to the present day, America welcomed immigrants from Holland, England, France, Germany, Ireland, China, Italy, the Philippines, and many other countries.
In his own case, Benedetto said his grandparents went to the United States to seek economic opportunity and managed to raise their children during the Great Depression.
Even more recently, Benedetto said, residents of the CNMI became U.S. citizens in 1986, by virtue of the Covenant, and are now proud members of the American family.
Paraphrasing former President Barrack Obama, Benedetto said: “It is our generation’s task to keep building an America where no matter who we are or what we look like, who we love or what we believe, we can make of our lives what we will,” he said.
“You will not and should not forget your history and your past. That adds to the richness of American life. But you are now Americans. You’ve got obligations as citizens. And I’m absolutely confident that you will meet them,” he told the new citizens.
Benedetto is leaving the CNMI to work with the U.S. Department of Justice’s ethics office in Washington, D.C.
He first came to Saipan in June 1999 to work as a prosecutor with the Office of the Attorney General Criminal Division. He became a federal ombudsman then moved to U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2008 as a prosecutor.
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona administered the oath for the 40 new citizens, who are mostly from the Philippines. The rest hail from Nepal, Vietnam, Bangladesh, China, Ghana, Russia, and Thailand.
Manglona said the oldest is a 77-year-old from the Philippines while the youngest is a 26-year-old from Russia. The judge noted that many of the 40 have been here in the CNMI for so long and it’s wonderful to see them finally join the American family.
The ceremony was held at the American Memorial Park Visitor’s Center Theater in Garapan as part of the celebration of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.
Naturalization ceremonies typically take place in courtrooms, but many courts opt to host them at schools, convention centers, national parks, and historic sites for Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.
Yinfong Cheng, who is from Hong Kong, first came to Saipan in 1987 to join her husband when they put up a wholesale store. She said their son was born in Guam and is now works in Los Angeles, California.
Cheng said her main concern is when she travels off-island. With her new citizenship, she hopes to no longer have such problems. Cheng and her husband are now retired.
Among the other new citizens are couple Alejo T. Doctor Jr. and Justina B. Doctor, who are natives of the Philippines.
Alejo Doctor, 61, first came to Saipan to work as an accountant in 1988. Now he has an accounting firm.
Justina Doctor, 55, first arrived on the island in 1988 to work as a waitress in a restaurant.
“I am happy, grateful and proud to be a U.S. citizen,” said Justina Doctor, who is currently an assistant with the human resources department of Triple J.
The Doctor couple obtained their citizenship through their daughter, Hazel, who was born on the island.
Aside from Cheng and the Doctor couple, the other new citizens are Imelda E. Ada, Julita A. Alcon, Mario D. Alo, Gabriel K. Arkoh, Maribel B. Atalig, Norbelita D. Batara, Camille J. Bocago, Josefina N. Diaz, Anchalee Iamjaroen, Genaro B. Inting, Luzviminda L. Ito, Mahabub Khan, Nhu Anh Thi Le, Corazon G. Loveras, Alfredo M. Manaluz, Emily A. Manglona, and Antonieto B. Mateo.
The others are Marylyn C. Montano, Louella M. Mundo, Somjit Chuamjorhor, Julieta M. Panaligan, Rosalinda L. Perje, Agripino S. Piamonte, Tersita C. Piamonte, Jesus M. Quiblat, Bhim B. Rai, Cristina C. Rapadas, Magdalena C. Realin, Victor B. Regacho, Sheila M. Sablan, Carolina A. San Nicolas, Dionisio M. Tababa Jr., Florence F. Tababa, Mark R. Travilla, Naum A. Vekhov, Imelda D. Wedding, and Leonil R. Yaguel.