Coming To America -- 100 New Citizens Sworn-In Downtown
|Citizens-to-be take the oath|
Sure, the soon-to-be Americans may have shifted in their chairs a bit when the master of ceremonies scanned the audience to thank an "acting superintendent" of one government body or another. And, yes, it warrants mentioning that the day's best and most rollicking speech was delivered by a medical doctor who urged his new countrymen to rush out and celebrate their nascent citizenship by getting themselves checked for Hepatitis B.
But those are details that will be swept away like dust in the day's torrential rain. In the end, 100 new citizens celebrated a day years in the making with their wives, husbands, and children. For the many Asians who can now call themselves Asian-Americans, it was a particularly poignant moment. The celebration marked the 100th anniversary -- to the day -- of the opening of Angel Island. A handful of elderly former "Angel Island Detainees" were even present for the occasion.
"It's been a really, really long journey," said Chinese-born Charles Zheng, who has been working to become a U.S. citizen for nine years. "We will tell our kids and their kids about Angel Island. Our wish is that America will give more and more people freedom and happiness."
Moving through the crowd of new citizens -- easy to spot with red carnations in their lapels and ubiquitous pocket-sized American flags -- a few answers kept coming up again and again as to why this was such an important day.
"Now I can vote," said Amar Smaili of Algeria. "And I can travel without a visa. I have so many more opportunities. There are so many more jobs."
The desire to vote -- and avoid maddening visa issues when traveling -- came up repeatedly. It was truly a missed opportunity for travel agents and those toting voter registration forms that they didn't set up in the lobby.
|South African-born Dieter Leibold (left) and Pieter Janse Van Rensburg bring many more names to America|
Like many of the new citizens, Leibold took time after the ceremony for a few photos -- but only a few. "I'm due at work," he said, striding out into the pouring rain. "And I'm already late."