Fr. Rey Dejon Rosal, the parish priest of San Jose on Tinian, was one of 15 people who took their oaths of allegiance as new U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the NMI.
With the citizenship, Rosal no longer considers himself a “visitor” in the CNMI. “At last. I waited for this to really complete my personality here,” said the 58-year-old Rosal.
Rosal originally came from Ormoc, Leyte, in the Philippines. He first arrived on Saipan on Feb. 20, 2004, to serve as a priest reliever at San Antonio Church for a month when the parish priest was on vacation.
“Later on, I was asked to stay for a while to work here. Then I ended up here forever,” said Rosal with a smile.
For 57-year-old Maria Lee Bignayan Labadan, obtaining her citizenship is an honor. Labadan, a native of Iloilo City, Philippines, first came to the island in 1989 when she worked at a garment factory. She married Daniel Palacios Agulto and together, they had six children. Of that number, three are with the U.S. Navy. Agulto passed away in 2003.
Labadan then worked at the Department of Labor in 1992, where she is now an executive secretary.
Leo Cela Clamor is thankful that, at 67 years old, he finally obtained U.S. citizenship. Clamor, who hails from Eastern Samar, Philippines, first arrived on the island in 1979 as a welder. Clamor’s eldest of two children is now with the U.S. Army.
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona accepted Immigration Services Officer Tammy Henry’s motion to accept the 15 applicants as new U.S. citizens.
Most of the new citizens are from the Philippines and the rest are from China, South Korea, and Japan.
Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), who served as the guest speaker at the ceremony, took a swipe at President Donald Trump, who told his fellow citizens to “go home.”
“He was wrong. America is our home. It will always be our home,” he said. “Real Americans will never tell you to go back where you came from.”
Sablan told the new citizens that real Americans—just like they are now real Americans—will always say “let us all go forward together.”
Sablan said the naturalized citizens chose America and that America chose them as full and equal members of the nation.
He said most believe that America is a land of immigrants. “We believe America’s strength comes from its ability to welcome a diversity of talents, and new traditions and points of view,” he said.
Sablan acknowledged that “there is a divide, but not a partisan divide.”
The delegate said the divide is between patriots, who truly believe in the values American stands for, and those who do not believe in America.
To prove it is not partisan, Sablan played in the courtroom a four-minute video about former president Ronald Reagan’s final speech from the White House, in which spoke about the value of immigrants to America.
Sablan described Reagan as a great communicator and an icon of the Republican Party.
“Someone who understood well that America is better, and richer, and stronger because we welcome people—like you—to join us as citizens,” Sablan said.
Aside from Rosal, Labadan, and Clamor, the other new citizens were Samylyn Tupas Atalig, Young Soon Choi, Joselito Ramirez Ejercito, Marilyn Montajes Ejercito, Patricio Barnachea Fieldad, Zenaida Medina Fieldad, Sanghoon Kim, Satoko Kishimoto Kobayashi, Hao Guo Mason, Iva Joy Borja Maurin, Erlinda Vismanos Pacheco, and Dennis De Guia Tupas.