UTICA— Forty-seven people from 22 separate countries were sworn in as new American citizens on Thursday in the U.S. District Courthouse on Broad Street.
U.S. District Judge David N. Hurd presided over the proceedings, a duty Hurd seemed to enjoy.
“Typically this is a very somber and serious place,” said Hurd, standing behind his bench addressing the crowded courtroom. “Today is different, I encourage you to applaude, cheer and take pictures. It’s one of the only days people leave this room happy.”
Presentation of Colors were presented by the New Hartford American Legion Post 1376. All took part in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. Followed by a cappella version of country music artist Lee Greenwood’s, “God Bless the USA” by Kym Johnson Fox. Immigration Services Officer Michael Sweeny and assistant Kim Austin, from the Syracuse Field Office of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Citizenship and Immigration Services, were present to award the the certificates of citizenship.
The collective oath of citizenship was administered by Phil T. McBrearty, deputy clerk of court.
Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon, D-119, attended the event and offerred remarks bidding the new citizens a warm welcome to their new country.
Comments were made by guest speaker Mya Myintzuu Kyaw, formerly of Burma. A college student now Kyaw spoke of her own struggles to leave her country, engulfed in turmoil, and more importantly, her family behind so she could have a better life. “I was told I was a woman at 6 years old,” she said. “I didn’t really have a chance to be a child in Burma. But now, I am not just a woman, but a powerful woman, a proud woman.”
Kyaw has been studying to be a medical doctor since she became a U.S. citizen in 2018.
Shahla Minasazi, of Tabriz, Iran also said she felt pride for being able to come to this country and becoming a citizen. With her husband, Amir, an optometrist in Herkimer by her side, she accepted her cerificate of citizenship with a tear in her eye and smile on her face.
“I’m so proud,” Minasazi said. “I want to enjoy freedom in my life.” Minasazi said she was excited to be able to vote in a national election. “First thing, I want to vote for a new president,” she said.
Judge Hurd, who’s overseen naturalization proceedings since 1991, closed the ceremony with words of support and solidarity.
“Don’t let anyone tell you, you are a lesser citizen than anyone else, Hurd said. “You are the equal to anyone who was born here.”
“The most unique thing about America is we dont simply welcome new immigants,” Buttenschon said. “But we understand everyone here is of that immigrant status, through their family members from generations past. That’s who we are, immigration is the story of our nation. For two centuries now it has remained the core character as well as what’s made us so successful.”
Buttenschon continued and explained becoming an American citizen was not just a privelege to enjoy, but also came with responsibilities.
“I hope you’re looking for what you can do for your country,” Butternschon said. “How you can be a part of our nation, our nation that will work together. The key to success and the abilility to be successful is within yourself, you hold it, what you’d like to achieve. It can be done, through work, school, community involvment - being a part, being active. You’ve put in the work to become citizens, but you still have tasks ahead of you. You have rights, you have responsibility. To each of you, as an American citizen, you have the power to be instrumental in the life of our city, the district you live in, as well as the state and country. I urge everyone of you to learn about the history, the demographics, the community...and register to vote, and then vote.”