LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
By Magen McCrarey
The nation gained 34 new citizens at the U.S. District Courthouse in London on Friday, Sept. 28. Eighteen countries were represented in the Naturalization Ceremony for the Eastern District of Kentucky, with citizens originating from Vietnam to Kenya and Ireland to Mexico.
For the first time, North Laurel High School band members participated in the historic event by performing the national anthem. NLHS ROTC members presented the colors of the flag before the ceremony began and Boy Scout Troop #572 led the district courtroom in the Pledge of Allegiance.
As prospective citizens rose and raised their right hands in oath, their families, friends and children watched in exultation. Three of the applicants for citizenship requested to have their names changed as a part of the naturalization process and were granted the change through a motion by Stephen C. Smith, assistant U.S. Attorney.
“You’re now in America,” stated U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove.
He estimated 1 million people will gain their citizenship every week in the U.S. this year.
“If we had time to listen, there is no doubt in my mind that we would be inspired by each of your stories... stories of success, stories of hardship, stories of great joy, stories of loss, stories of warm memories and sometimes painful pasts,” Tatenhove said.
Elizabeth Head was first a Canadian citizen from Toronto, living and working in the U.S. She completed the naturalization process, earning her U.S. citizenship Friday. Her father and mother traveled from Canada to London, Ky., to celebrate the day.
“I’m proud of her becoming an American citizen. I’m losing a citizen and you’re winning a citizen,” said Dieter Eagani, her father.
Head said she chose to become a U.S. citizen because she wants to vote, especially in the upcoming November elections.
“That was really important to me, and I’ve worked here long enough to where it feels like home,” she said.
Mary Ntinyari Mikiugu, formerly of Kenya, was introduced to the American way of life through Eastern Kentucky University as an international nursing student. She believes as an American citizen, she will now have better job opportunities and economic outcome. She will graduate from EKU in December.
“It was comforting to have support in the courtroom,” Mikiugu said.
Like many of the other new citizens, she had two of her loved ones present for the ceremony.
“Today, you choose us, and if you think about it, for the vast majority of Americans, we enjoy the privileges and protections of this great nation, because we, too, have that choice as part of our heritage,” Tatenhove said.