Obtaining U.S. citizenship means a sense of permanence for Bishop Ryan P. Jimenez, a sense of belonging.
Jimenez, who is the bishop of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa, said his citizenship gives his apostolic assignment a sense of permanence. His ability to vote in the CNMI next year is what gives him a sense of belonging.
“I feel grateful. I think each one of us has a story to tell,” said Jimenez, who was one of the 28 who took their oath as new U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony yesterday at the U.S. District Court for the NMI.
“I came here in 1995 not knowing that I would be a citizen. I just came here to work, then I became a priest and now a bishop. I think this is important for me,” said the 45-year-old native of Siquijor, Philippines.
After working as a teacher in the Philippines for three years, Jimenez came in 1995 to Rota, where he worked as a teacher for two years.
Bishop emeritus Tomas A. Camacho then accepted Jimenez as a candidate for the priesthood. He was sent to school in California, then came back to the CNMI and was ordained in 2003. Last year, he was appointed bishop.
Today being Liberation Day, the timing is perfect, Jimenez said.
He is, however, mindful that there are many others who have been here in the CNMI much longer than him, who are facing challenges with their immigration status.
“While definitely it is a time to be grateful and to celebrate, I am also mindful of the many people who have contributed a lot to this community who are not as fortunate as the 28 of us,” he said.
When the CNMI’s immigration system came under U.S. control, the clergy and religious sisters became qualified to petition for permanent residency.
“So we did. And I think in a few more years some priests in the diocese would also be going toward this path. So after five years of being a permanent resident, then you can apply for citizenship,” he said.
For Ferdinand A. Suela, he is just happy and proud to be a U.S. citizen. Suela, 54, has been working in the CNMI for 30 years now. He first arrived in 1988 on Saipan, where he worked as an assistant civil engineer at a construction company. Since 1990 he has been working at the Rota Resort. At present, he is an assistant supervisor. Suela’s parents from Hawaii petitioned him.
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona administered the oath for the 28. This batch was among the 15,000 new U.S. citizens sworn in during more than 65 Independence Day-themed naturalization ceremonies across the country this year.
CNMI Military Liaison and Veteran’s Affair Office executive director Oscar Torres served as the guest speaker at the ceremony.
“Today we celebrate the 240th birthday of the United States of America. 241 years ago the Declarations of Independence was signed and America was born,” Torres said.
Torres said for the new citizens, each of them had a choice and each has chosen to become citizens of the United States.
“It’s a huge decision. It’s a wonderful choice. It is a special day for all that are here,” Torres said.
Immigration Services officer Teresa Vega-Murrieta moved to accept the 28 new citizens, who are mostly from the Philippines, one from South Korea, and four from China.
Aside from Jimenez and Suela, the other new citizens are Marcelo T. Aduca, Evelyn P. Alarcon, Juvy S. Balingit, Jennifer T. Barcinas, Lyn F. Borja, Cristina D. Butac, Rodney S. Cabarles, Mila L. Calibo, Zhihong Chen, Wilfredo A. Dela Cruz, Chaomei Deng, Tessa E. Diaz, Michelle P. Ganacias, and Marylou E. Gonzales.
The other newest citizens are Maricar A. Kisa, Conchita M. Lukas, Henan Ma, Violeta L. Opena, Adora V. Reyes, Mark L. Robles, April J. Sablan, Dug Young Song, Artemio A. Tebia, Sarah B. Tomokane, Maribel G. Whang, and Ni Yin.