On May 25, 30 Hudson County residents were sworn in as U.S. citizens on the lawn of Weehawken’s American Legion Post 18, which organized the event.
Becoming a naturalized citizen is a lengthy process that involves multiple federal agencies.
Some spent well over a decade achieving citizenship status. Receiving an application can take years. There’s a backlog of hundreds of thousands of applicants. The average wait between receiving a citizenship application and having it approved is roughly 10 months, and counting.
Several American Legion veterans welcomed the newcomers after they took their Oaths of Allegiance, the final step in becoming a U.S. citizen. The oath was administered by Tamika Gray, a deputy district director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
A Memorial Day tradition
“Many of our veterans endure a void left by the absence of our fallen brethren-in-arms to whom the holiday is dedicated,” American Legion Post 18’s First Vice Commander, Dr. Troy Mack, said. “This Memorial Day, we honor those who gave all by witnessing the Oaths of Allegiance sworn by our newest fellow citizens. They now bind themselves to the same American principles to which our comrades once pledged their service, and in defense of which our comrades sacrificed their lives.”
Mack said that ceremonies welcoming newly-naturalized citizens are an old custom. The post restored that tradition in Hudson County and plans on hosting the ceremonies annually or biannually in the future.
Dignitaries who congratulated the new citizens included District Representative for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services John Thompson, Post 18 Commander Chris Page, Hudson County American Legion Commander Jack Dunne, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, North Bergen Commissioner Julio Marenco and West New York Commissioner Cosmo Cirillo.
Our American family
The new citizens came from Algeria, Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, India, Peru, Philippines, and Tajikistan. While they were from 13 different countries, several dignitaries spoke of the pledge that united them.
“You’re becoming U.S. citizens in what is probably the most diverse area of the world,” Mayor Turner said, urging residents to take part in the democratic process. “You’ve all lived here for a long time. You know we’re loud, we’re raucous, we argue, but every day that we have an election, we turn out. It’s always an issue to remind Americans that they have to vote, because voting has consequences.”
Jack Dunne celebrated the site where the ceremony took place.
“I can’t think of a better place for all of our newest Americans to become naturalized,” Dunne said. “Look where you are, on the banks of the mighty Hudson River where immigrants have been coming to our shores for hundreds of years. We can see what they saw—the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, New York City, the whole harbor.”
Troy Mack concluded, “I have this honor today to stand and witness all 30 of you pledge yourselves to this great American Project, and this great American Dream, and for that I thank you, because you’ve given us the opportunity to continue to believe in a powerful project of freedom, liberty, and the sacred dignity of every man, woman, and child.”