ITHACA, N.Y. — Crowded at the front of a Tompkins County courtroom Wednesday afternoon, 49 people from 27 countries became citizens of the United States of America.

Naturalization ceremonies happen in the county three or four times a year.

Tompkins County Legislator Rich John spoke to the group before they took their oaths to the country. He said that his family immigrated to the country from Ireland and his wife’s family came to the country from Italy.

He said, “And I would like to say that it was always easy. But as outsiders coming in, it is not always the case that we are perfect in being welcoming and saying, ‘Yes come in, come in.’ But it is essential to our experiment as a country, as part of what makes American special, that we continue to say, ‘Yes come in. You’re welcome. ‘”

John said that in addition to getting privileges as a citizen, they now have the obligation to help make the United States a more perfect union.

“It is not enough to say, ‘You’re privileged to be here.’ We’re privileged to have you as new citizens and it is what is going to make this country great,” he said.

Xiaolong  Yang, 52, first came to this country from China to attend graduate school at Pennsylvania State University.

“I’m so excited. It’s a very great day,” he said. “I like this country — the freedom, the liberty, and the value of people (who) can do what they want and realize their dreams, their American dreams.”

He said that he understands the current conflict in the country regarding President Donald Trump’s travel ban on legal immigrants or visitors from seven countries — Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Libya, Sudan and Yemen. But he said that welcoming immigrants is one of the country’s core values.

“We should not close the door to the outside world.”

One of the most exciting things about becoming a U.S. citizen, he said, is his new opportunity to vote.

“You can decide you have a voice. That’s how this country is made,” Yang said.

Yang is a Senior Lecturer and Associate Director of the Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Information Science program at Cornell University.

One Iranian person who was sworn in said that becoming a U.S. citizen was always part of the game plan.

The person said, “I always knew that, somewhere down the line, I’d become a citizen.”
The new American declined to be identified due to the current national climate about immigrants. But that doesn’t mean the person has felt targeted, either in the past or post-election.
“Actually, it was quite the opposite and (people were) saying, ‘This is not who we are.’”
The person said they came to the United States as a young child when a parent earned the opportunity to study at an Ivy League university.
The former Iranian family now legally works in the Southern Tier and has been in the country for more than a dozen years.
The new American said President Donald Trump’s recent executive order issuing travel bans on people from seven countries — Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia — is shocking.
“I think a lot of us didn’t think he would go through with this,” the person said, adding that it’s hard to comment about people who have immigrated to the United States illegally.
But the person said, “It’s nicer to give everyone a chance (to become Americans).”