ITHACA, N.Y. — The Tompkins County Court was a happy scene Wednesday afternoon. The main courtroom was full of people there to see their friends and family take the Oath of Allegiance and become American citizens. In total, 30 people from 19 countries were naturalized Wednesday.

With three local colleges, May in Tompkins County is full of graduation celebrations. Tompkins County Legislator Henry Granison said naturalization ceremonies are akin to graduations. Like graduation, Granison said, a naturalization ceremony “recognizes all the hard work that you’ve put in to reach this point.”

Granison said he looked at some of the questions on the U.S. Citizenship test, which hopeful Americans have to take. The test has 100 civics questions and people applying to be citizens are asked up to 10 questions. The test features questions like, “How many amendments does the U.S. Constitution have?” or “Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the states. What is one power of the states?”

In closing, Granison said, “I’m sure you’ll hear this often today, but congratulations.”

The 30 people being naturalized Wednesday came from a wide array of countries, including Liberia, Equatorial Guinea, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, the Philippines, India, Nepal, Spain, Romania, United Kingdom, Turkey, Russia, Belarus, Peru, Colombia, and Canada.

Mariette Geldenhuys addresses new citizens. (Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice)
Mariette Geldenhuys addresses new citizens. (Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice)

“You each have your own unique story of what brought you here today,” said speaker and local attorney Mariette Geldenhuys, who became a U.S. citizen 26 years ago. She said she was originally from South Africa. “Some of you may have fled persecution or hardship in your countries. Some of you may have come here as students to pursue education. Some of you came for jobs or employment opportunities or following a spouse or family member already here.”

Geldenhuys said in each person being naturalized Wednesday, the U.S. is receiving “precious gifts.” She said each person brings their own culture, language, traditions, talents and broader view of the world.

“(Immigrants) are a part of the essential fabric of a country that continues to reinvent itself and remains vibrant precisely because of our presence and our perspective,” Geldenhuys said.

After the ceremony, the new citizens were greeted by members of the Kiwanis Club of Ithaca-Cayuga who had refreshments and representatives from the League of Representatives who handed out voter registration forms.

Supreme Court Judge Joseph McBride presided over the ceremony Wednesday.

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.