Thirty-six countries represented in Dodge City naturalization ceremony
Nearly 200 people take oath of citizenship in poignant celebration of human determination
By DAVE MYERS
Southwest Kansas Catholic
DODGE CITY – They came to this country with stern determination, their hopes and dreams bent on seeking a better life for them and their families.
On June 21, 198 individuals entered the United Wireless Arena as citizens of 36 different countries — Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, Canada, China, Columbia, Congo, Cuba, Czech Republic, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Laos, Lebanon, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Thailand, Venezuela, and Vietnam.
And when they departed an hour later, they did so as citizens of the United States, “equal in your citizenship rights with any other citizen of this country, naturalized or native born.”
It was an amazing experience, even as a bystander, to see this immensely multi-cultural crowd, surrounded by family and friends, take their oath of allegiance to the United States. One can only imagine the struggles they faced in their home country, and those they faced here as they endeavored to become citizens.
Although a civil ceremony, it was impossible not to feel God’s presence—like a proud Father smiling down upon His children.
“We’re so proud of everybody here,” Dodge City Mayor Brian Delzeit told those gathered. “In this room, we see the real purpose of the United States of America. We were founded as a nation of immigrants and we’re better off for it. … Immigrants can make our country stronger and keep America prosperous. …The American dream continues to be there as it lives on through all of you, and in the future through your children and grandchildren. This makes us stronger as a nation, and ensures that our best days are still ahead. … Congratulations and God bless you.”
Kimberly Bishop of the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service field office in Wichita addressed U.S. District Court Judge Eric Melgren:
“If it may please the court, I’d like to present for your consideration, the petition of 198 candidates for United States Citizenship. …Each candidate present today has been personally examined under oath by a designated immigration officer, and unless exempt, has demonstrated an understanding of the English language, and a knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history and the principals in the form of government of the United States.
“Each person has been found to be a person of good moral character, attached to the principals of the constitution of the United States, and well-disposed to a good order and happiness of the country.”
Bishop then called out each country, the candidates from each standing to applause. Mexico had the greatest number of delegates, followed by Somalia.
With their right hand raised, they then read their oath of citizenship:
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; and that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law. And that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, so help me God.
Following the oath Judge Melgren said, “Let me be the first to congratulate you as new citizens of the United States of America. This country has grown in greatness in no small part due to the talents, and the industry, and the dedication of immigrants from around the world who have come to the United States and who have staked their future here. …
“Ladies and Gentlemen, you are now full citizens, equal in your citizenship rights, with any other citizen of this country, naturalized or native born. Through our combined effort, I believe we will continue to make this country an even better place in which to live. … We welcome you, we salute you, and we wish you well.”
Keynote speaker Dave Rebein, a Dodge City attorney, told those gathered, “Thank you for choosing America. … I know that many of you grew up in poverty. I hope that today is just one more step on the road to prosperity. … We need your help in working together to form a more perfect union, and together we can and will do good things. As a citizen of this country, you have inherited those famous inalienable rights: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.
“But these rights do come with responsibilities, responsibility to participate fully to vote and to run for office, to volunteer at school, to help out in your home town. All persons are created equal, that is true. But there is no guarantee of equal results. All you will get is opportunity.
“But believe me, that opportunity is without limits. … Answer that call that you find in your heart. Answer that song that stirs in your soul. … And be proud to be an American!”