From the Schenectady, NY Daily Gazette


Publication:Schenectady Daily Gazette;

Date:Jul 5, 2005;

Section:Front Page;




Citizens now — and they’re proud


    Twenty-one people became U.S. citizens here on Monday, but perhaps none was more thrilled than Ana Fuguet, from Cuba.

    Her joy at being sworn in as a citizen was so overwhelming she hugged a surprised Citizenship and Immigration Services official and several other people. The gesture brought gasps of laughter from the 250 family, friends and visitors attending a citizenship ceremony held at Saratoga National Historical Park.


    "She’s really happy here," said her daughter, Ana Leyva of Wilton, helping her 58-year-old mother through interviews with English-speaking reporters. She fled Cuba in 1993 because of the poor economy and her own poor health.

    The 21 people taking the oath of allegiance represented 17 countries on five continents and each had a different story.

    Carlos Duque Londono of Queens, a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, said becoming a citizen is essential for him to pursue a career in military intelligence. Foreign-born military personnel can qualify for an expedited citizenship.

    "This actually was one of the greatest days of my life," said the 26-year-old native of Colombia, who attended the morning ceremony in full dress uniform.

    Londono, who first sought citizenship a decade ago after coming to this country when he was 10, expects the intelligence specialty will get him stationed overseas for the first time, though he takes it "one day at a time."

    "You have so many opportunities, you’ve got to make the best of it," he said of life in the United States.

    The oaths of allegiance were given in a setting designed for maximum effect: on America’s birthday, at the national park dedicated to the Revolutionary War’s turning-point Battle of Saratoga.

    Those sworn in here were among 15,000 men, women and children across the country becoming citizens in ceremonies this week, according to Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of the Department of Homeland Security.

    About 450,000 people become naturalized citizens annually, Citizenship and Immigration Services officials said.

    This is the second year a naturalization ceremony was held on July 4 at the national historic park. Park officials expect it to become a new annual tradition.

    "Simply put, celebrating America’s birthday doesn’t get any better than this," said Duane Booth of Stephentown, former president of the Saratoga Battle Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution.

    Booth, who helped organize last year’s first-ever ceremony and who spoke on Monday, said he expects the tradition to continue "the next umpteen years, people love it so much."

    Attendees were repeatedly reminded of the historic significance of the spot.

    "Before you lay the grounds where our forbearers fought for liberty. They would be proud this ceremony was being held here," said Joe Finan, assistant park superintendent.

    The event took place under a tent on the lawn of the visitors center, on a hilltop that looks out across the fields where the Battle of Saratoga was fought in 1777, to the hills of Washington County. A small contingent of re-enactors in colonial military uniforms marched and fired a musket salute to the newest Americans.

    "Can it get any better than this? Look at the scenery. The weather is beautiful," said Assemblyman Roy J. McDonald, RWilton, one of the speakers.

    McDonald noted most Americans are descended from immigrants, and immigration provides "a never-ending injection of fresh people with new energy, industry and love."

    For adults, studying to become a citizen involves learning about American history and politics. But some new citizens are too young to do the homework.

    Small children adopted internationally by American citizens automatically become U.S. citizens, but officials also recommend they have the certificate to prove their citizenship.

    "The ceremony was just awesome," said Lori Lopez-Hammond of Gansevoort, whose 3-year-old daughter adopted from Chongqing, China, became a citizen. Kara joins sister Kayli, 6, also from China, who became a citizen three years ago.

    But the prize for youngest new citizen participating Monday would go to 23-month-old Marissa Van Dyck, who was adopted from Guatemala.

    "It’s nice to be able to make a difference in someone’s life. It is the land of opportunity," said her mother, Celine Van Dyck of Colonie. She said she found the ceremony moving.

    "There were tears in my eyes, and I wasn’t expecting that," Van Dyck said afterward, surrounding by family.

MEREDITH L. KAISER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER Carlos Andres Duque Londono of Queens, a native of Colombia, is sworn in as a United States citizen Monday in a ceremony at the Saratoga National Historical Park. Londono is a corporal in the U.S. Marines.

MEREDITH L. KAISER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER Ana Fuguet of Wilton, right, a native of Cuba, hugs her daughter Ana Leyva of Wilton after she was sworn in as a United States citizen on Monday at the Saratoga National Historical Park in an Independence Day ceremony.