BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Tuesday was a momentous day for more than two dozen people who took the Oath of Allegiance at the Theodore Roosevelt Inauguration National Historic Site. The 26 people who became U.S. citizens there were among 25,000 people going through naturalization ceremonies across the country this week.
Many of the people who were pronounced citizens Tuesday morning had been waiting years for that moment.
“I came to the United States back in 2000, so it is almost a 17 year process that I went through,” said Rasul Khan, a new U.S. citizen who was born in India.
The group of people who became citizens came from 18 different countries: Bangladesh, Burma, Canada, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, India, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, China, Phillipines, Somalia, Ukraine, Vietnam, and Yemen.
Iraq, Iran, Somalia, and Yemen are four of the seven countries named specifically in President Trump’s earlier immigration ban that’s now tied up in the courts.
“To be able to come to a country like this in this time, it’s a challenge I’m sure,’ Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul told News 4, “But we need to let them know, particularly in the state of New York, we welcome them. We are all immigrants at the end of the day.”
The immigrants from the countries listed in the ban said the immigration situation hurts. “Ninety percent of all the cases, they apply to come here just to become safe,” said a new U.S. citizen, Sirmad Jehad, who was born in Iraq. Jehad had to spend three years in Syria after escaping Iraq before he was able to come to the United States in 2010.
“It kind of shocked me and scared me a little bit, too, because I wasn’t in the stage I’m in today,” said Mahad Warsame, a new U.S. citizen who was born in Somalia. “I was scared for a lot of people because the country where I’m from is not a peaceful place to live.”
“There’s no life back there,” he added.
Warsame told News 4 he was celebrating the ability to share his story and his perspective, treasuring his right to free speech that’s guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which he, and the other citizenship candidates, swore to uphold and defend when they took the Oath of Allegiance to become citizens Tuesday morning.
“I feel excited,” Jehad said. “It’s the best day of my life.”
The oath the new citizens took was extremely meaningful to them. A re-enacted oath that was part of the ceremony, recreating the moment when Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as president, was also particularly meaningful this Presidents’ Day week.
“For him, citizenship was a very sacred, an obligation, an honor,” Hon. Leslie Foscio, U.S. Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York pointed out, as he talked about the country’s 26th president.
“I’m very, very proud to be a citizen,” Warsame said, after receiving his naturalization certificate.
“There’s definitely a lot of pressure in terms of getting through this process, but finally, it came through well, and I’m very glad, and I’m thankful to God, and I’m thankful to the United States of America for giving me this opportunity,” Khan said.
As the new citizens celebrate, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services asked them and their families to share their experience via Twitter, using the hashtag #newUScitizen.