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.