First naturalization of 2020 swears in 25

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The 25 naturalized citizens pose for a photo following the naturalization ceremony yesterday at the U.S. District Court for the NMI. (KIMBERLY BAUTISTA)

The first naturalization ceremony of 2020 swore in 25 new U.S. citizens who have lived and work in the CNMI for decades.

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona Manglona swore in the 25 new citizens Thursday at the U.S. District Court on Beach Road.

Charito and Henry Bautista, a couple who have been in the CNMI for 28 and 30 years, respectively, could not hold back their excitement because after over two decades, the two were finally able to obtain their citizenship.

With her new citizenship, Charito Bautista, a Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality laboratory manager, believes she can now travel with few restrictions. With that privilege, she aims to attend trainings, workshops, and seminars in her field and apply what she has learned in the CNMI.

“I can now travel conveniently without hassle at the immigration counter and I would be able to share the knowledge and skills I will acquire from attending workshops and trainings. I would be able share my knowledge with the agency I work for and I could help the Commonwealth with the skills I have obtained,” she said.

Henry Bautista, a senior highway engineer with the Department of Public Works, said he is proud to become a naturalized citizen but is even prouder to have his sons, Kevin and Kent, witness this milestone in their lives.

The longest CNMI resident in the batch, Nelson Hernandez Gopez, was joyous because after 42 years on Saipan, he could finally say he is a citizen.

Bautista, Charito, and Gopez, like every immigrant searching for a better life in the U.S., came from humble beginnings.

Bautista shared that, although he had a degree as an engineer, he came to Saipan as a construction worker and worked hard up until the day he was hired at DPW.

Charito came to Saipan and started off as a housekeeper, before taking up accounting even though her heart’s desire was to work at BECQ’s Division of Environmental Quality, which is her area of expertise. She wasn’t only able to achieve that dream, but quickly climbed the ladder to a managerial position.

Gopez also worked his way up, from a car painter, to starting his own shop, and holding a position at Kanoa Resort for years.

Kevin Bautista, eldest son of Charito and Bautista and press secretary to CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, said immigrants are an inspiration and everyone who is naturalized deserves to be a part of the United States.

“This country is built on immigrants. These islands are built on immigrants, built from the hands of immigrants and every single person who calls these beautiful islands home has a story and their story contributes to the story of the Commonwealth,” he said.

Northern Marianas College president Frankie Eliptico, who gave the keynote speech, said it was a wonderful opportunity to address the new citizens.

“This was extra special because we recently celebrated President’s Day, which is celebrated nationally and it’s a common celebration of diversity, our leadership everywhere, and I was so honored to have been able to speak to our newest fellow citizens this morning,” he said.

The other naturalized citizens are Salve Barbacena Bahillo, Elden Haygood Buhay, Francisco Soriano Buniag, Marites Cruz Cabaltica, Jeneth Cortez, Teresita Fernandez, Danilo Gaza, Luz Gapor, Hong Shi Hanley, Jocelyn Joyce, Ronnie Manaloto, Maria Miranda, Josephine Palacios, Maria Pensader, Celina Rivera, Edna Ruluked, Emalyn Santiago, Cleofe Santos, Simplicia Sunio, Florencia Taitingfong, Rochelle Tomokane, and Tianshuai Zhou.

Kimberly Bautista | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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