Newest U.S. citizens on top of the world
Twenty new U.S. citizens are on top of the world after taking the Oath of Allegiance. (SARA YOUNG-KNOX/Union Leader Correspondent)
It's not the usual place of business for passport services, but the top of the Northeast's highest mountain isn't the usual place for a naturalization ceremony.
Clem, formerly of Brazil, was one of 20 applicants who took the Oath of Allegiance, administered by New Hampshire's chief U.S. District Court judge, Joseph Laplante. The court held a special session, holding much of the naturalization ceremony inside the Sherman Adams Building, but took the most important part of the ceremony out on the terraced roof.
Though there were clouds all around the mountain top, the peak had punched a hole in the foggy air, and right above the group of new citizens, and their family and friends, the sun shone through.
The new citizens came from Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, the Dominican Republic, India, Jordan, Mali, Netherlands, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and the United Kingdom, but all live in New Hampshire now.
Dina and Tiffany D'cruze of Lebanon had come up on a special run of the Mount Washington Cog Railway for the applicants and their well-wishers. The girls came with their parents, Donel and Nina D'cruze, who were taking the oath. The high school students said they were excited because now they, too, can become citizens. Their parents came to the U.S. from India a decade ago.
“We're just really enjoying it now,” Dina said shortly after the ceremony.
Ravindra Kampamalla of Somersworth said, “I am very proud to be an American.” He said he was happy to be a part of both of his countries. As a citizen of India, he is from the world's largest democracy, and now he is a citizen of the world's second-largest democracy, he said.
A beaming Nikki Fisher-Quittmeyer of Milford was happy for her partner, Natalie Evans. Evans first came to New Hampshire from South Africa as a high school exchange student almost three decades ago, Fisher-Quittmeyer said. For two years, she returned to South Africa, which was still in the grips of apartheid, before moving back to the U.S. for good.
In his remarks to those gathered, Judge Laplante said “my court” is now “your court” and that the best way to protect the rights derived from the Constitution is to practice them. He urged the new citizens to exercise their right to vote, their right to worship, and to get involved in their communities, including serving on juries.
“Our nation will be that much stronger because of you,” he said. He asked the new citizens not to leave their heritage behind, but to bring it with them. He thanked them for making “We The People” 20 people stronger.
Staff Sgt. Moussa Mikolo of Hampton is already practicing the oath. The U.S. Marine, originally from Mali, took his oath of allegiance in full dress uniform.
On the train trip up the mountain, as the trees got smaller and smaller, Luis Chaves, acting field director with the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services (USCIS), said, “Everybody did their part to make it all happen.”
Denis Riordan, Boston District director of USCIS, said the agency normally has ceremonies that aren't judicial. “We're really honored to have the court here today.”
USCIS, the U.S. District Court, the state Division of Parks and Recreation, the Mount Washington Cog Railway, the Mountain Washington Auto Road, and the Department of Homeland Security were among the agencies and businesses who made the day memorable for the new citizens, and their families and friends.
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Sara Young-Knox may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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