As a one-time immigration lawyer wannabee, I had heard vaguely about citizenship ceremonies but had never attended one. Today I did. A friend of mine from Mexico was becoming a citizen and I jumped at the chance to go as a guest.
It’s one of those things where I imagine many people, at least those not directly participating, experience mixed emotions. On one hand, our country has such restrictive immigration policies and many people who want to make the United States their home may not immigrate legally. Add to that all the problems we have in this country with discrimination, lack of opportunity, wide disparities between rich and poor. On the other hand, there is something uplifting about seeing all these people (about 700 today), from 90 different countries, many of whom have traveled difficult journeys, get to this point. It can make you feel downright patriotic.
At the beginning of the ceremony, the names of the countries represented were read. From the applausometer, it appeared that the largest numbers were from Somalia and Ethiopia, which should come as no surprise, given the large influx of refugees from East Africa to Minnesota a few years back.
Judge Donovan Frank began the presentation by talking about his own experience and background, including as a father of three adopted daughters from other countries and how their citizenship ceremonies have impacted him. You could tell that he is a kind and caring person and that he enjoys presiding at these events.
There was a musical/visual interlude in which a Disney-like montage of scenes was shown on the big screen while Lee Greenwood’s Proud to Be an American was played (the woman next to me was singing along – I had never even heard of Lee Greenwood). Judge Frank got up from his seat, walked over to the podium and pumped his fist when these lines were sung. This was obviously not the first time he had done this. . .
From the lakes of Minnesota,
to the hills of Tennessee.
Across the plains of Texas,
From sea to shining sea.
My general impression of the event was that people were happy to be there, there was beauty in the diversity of people and cultures, the sun was shining, the humidity level was low, things ran smoothly – I’m so glad I had the opportunity to be there and share this unique experience.