They all “worked hard and struggled for it.”
U.S. District Court Judge David N. Hurd recognized the dedication and sacrifice of the 38 immigrants, representing 18 nations across the globe, that took the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony held at the Federal Courthouse in Utica Thursday.
“Now that you’re citizens of the U.S. you are equal to any other citizen, and don’t let anyone tell you you’re less of a citizen than anyone else,” the judge told candidates, as well as the numerous friends and family who gathered. Hurd said while he only “had to be born” in order to become a U.S. citizen, those naturalized had to persevere and work toward having their dreams become a reality.
The ceremony opened with the Presentation of Colors by New Hartford American Legion, followed by the singing of the National Anthem by the Barbershoppe Belles. Immigration Services Officer John Flynn presented the candidates for citizenship, and Deputy Clerk Phil T. McBrearty gave the Administration of Oath for Citizenship.
Attorney David A. Bagley, Oneida County Bar Association president, addressed the new citizens, reminding them of some of the “best things about being an American.” Those included freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the law itself.
As for freedom of religion, “I’m proud that when we were building a mosque in downtown Utica, not one person expressed any anger, fear or resentment when that occurred,” Bagley said.
And in America, when it comes to having freedom to express yourself, Bagley said anyone can say what they wish without fear of retribution from the government.
“You may hear Americans say, ‘I may hate what you say, but I will defend the right to the death for you to say it,’” he said. “...They say this is the land of opportunity this is true, and our immigrant population has proven that throughout history. Immigrants have made tremendous successes in their lives...But the best thing of all — you have the power to change America. Let everyone know what you think and how things should be.”
New citizen Lakpa Dorjee Tamang, formerly of Bhutan, addressed his fellow candidates, thanking those who have given his family new opportunities since arriving to the Utica area almost six years ago. Before coming to America, Tamang and his wife and child were refugees in Nepal. He spoke of how he was forced from his homeland because of political unrest and war.
Today, Tamang works for Chobani yogurt. In 2015 he earned his General Education Diploma and enrolled as a full-time student at Mohawk Valley Community College in 2016, majoring in computer information systems.
“I like my job and the opportunities for advancement there,” Tamang said, adding that he was able to buy a home for his family and make regular payments on a mortgage. “Thank you for welcoming refugees here and giving us a new start on life.”
Andrew Schrader, human resources manager for Chobani, attended the ceremony in support of Tamang and his family. He said it was a tradition of Chobani to support new immigrants and provide jobs to those seeking a better life.
“We come to all the naturalization ceremonies when we have employees becoming new citizens,” Schrader said. “We have Chobani TV in our employee lounges where we show their photos, as well as in our newsletter. We also give them Chobani hats to wear that have the date of their naturalization ceremony and an American flag embroidered on it.”
“We treat people like family,” he said. “It’s a culture we’ve created in our workplace. Chobani is a fast-growing company, and any good worker who cares and comes in and works hard, there will always be opportunities for — it doesn’t matter where you’re from.”
Robert Rowe arrived to the U.S. in May 2008. A native of Devon, England, he came with his American wife, Linda, who had been living in the United Kingdom on a Fulbright Scholarship. Rowe said he came to the U.S. with his wife so they could be near family.
“I should have done this years ago,” he said of becoming a U.S. citizen. “But I wanted to do this so I could participate fully in American life, particularly to be able to vote. I’m pleased to do it, and the ceremony was wonderful. I loved it.”
A list of new citizens and their native lands:
Ahmad Afeef Talib Abu Zamaq, Iraq; Laxmi Prasad Adhikari, Bhutan; Mohammed Ali Kasem Alawsaj, Iraq; Mohammed Adnan Yousif Alsaad, Iraq; Magdalena Caracas, Poland; Brian Collett, United Kingdom; Alexandr Georgievich Curudimov, Moldova; Ernstz Junior Cyprien, Haiti; Emiko Dombrowski, Japan; Fooad Muhammad Falah, Jordan; Viktor Greben, Ukraine; Dilexso Euclides Guzman, Dominican Republic; Quan Dang Hong, Malaysia; Paul Richard Humphrey, United Kingdom; Xiuyan Huo, People’s Republic of China; Enaim Fuad Karadsheh, Jordan; Sergey Sergeyevich Kozulya, Belarus; Tatyana Kozulya, Belarus; Hongmin Li, People’s Republic of China; Senad Mahmutovic, Bosnia-Herzegovina; Ahmed Mansour Mansour, Egypt; Catherine Elizabeth McDougall, Canada; Mee Mee, Burma; Sha Raya Mu, Burma; Ta Mu, Burma; Nihada Muhic, Bosnia-Herzegovina; Vera Mikhailovna Pashkevich, Belarus; San Man Rai, Bhutan; Subash Rai, Bhutan; Jose Antonio Romera Casimiro, Dominican Republic; Robert James Rowe, United Kingdom; Muharem Spahic, Bosnia-Herzegovina; Nusreta Spahic, Bosnia-Herzegovina; Yanet Del Carmen Stanley, Dominican Republic; Lakpa Dorjee Tamang, Bhutan; Resika Tamang, Bhutan; Anja Inken Gisela Timm-Ogrodnik, Germany; and Pyo Win, Burma.