They are America's newest citizens. A small portion of the approximately 700,000 people a year who join the ranks of Americans. YNN's Bill Carey reports on the ceremony at Onondaga Community College.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- In a country where loud debate continues over the issue of immigration, it was a reminder that, nearly every day, more and more people from around the globe are waiting to take an oath to share the title of U.S. citizen.
Bernardo Bajo, born in Mexico, came to this country 18 years ago. Despite the impression that life for immigrants has been made uncomfortable, Bajo says he's never been made to feel out of place.
“I know that I've been welcome. My family has always been welcome in the United States. As far as I see, everybody's welcome,” Bajo said.
Many here say they made the effort to make it easier for Americans to welcome them.
“I think if you fit yourself to the country itself, the way it is. The language. If you learn the language. If you put an effort into trying to fit yourself in, I think you feel welcome,” said Abigail Hilton, a native of Germany.
In this auditorium, 63 people from 32 different nations went through the legal procedure of renouncing their ties to their old home and pledging allegiance to the new. Some had rushed to become citizens as soon as they were eligible. Others had waited for years. All celebrated this day.
Ask these newest citizens just why they came to the United States and the common word you'll hear in reply is "opportunity."
Hilton said, “Doesn't matter where you're from. If you want to start a new life, it gives you the feeling like this would be the country to do that at.”
“After the military, I'm planning on making my career in law enforcement. Basically, you can't get into law enforcement without being a U.S. citizen. It's basically my life. My career,” Bajo said.
“Whether they be economic, education, whatever kind of opportunities, it's here. You can travel from one side of this country to the next. Just get in a car and drive,” Jamaica native Joseph Smythe said. “Hey. It's a great place.”
The naturalization ceremony was held at Onondaga Community College as part of the school's International Education Week. It was the first time such a ceremony had been conducted at OCC.