I have always wanted to attend a citizenship ceremony. It turns out the Boston branch of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services performs them every week at historic Faneuil Hall, which was a witness to some of the first rumblings of the American Revolution. It’s an imposing place for a great event.
There were 376 immigrants from 79 countries today (Belarus, Egypt, Sweden, and 76 others). It was moving to think about those 376 people wanting to be citizens and also to think about the United States as a place that can mean hope and opportunity. I did find myself wondering whether some of the new Americans were feeling a little sad, especially refugees and the elderly, who might be thinking about the way their homeland used to be — or could have been.
I saw Ione lining up outside. She looked happy and beautiful. Inside, I was surprised to observe a man I knew through my work also becoming a citizen.
The first announcement made me chuckle:”Is there anyone on the floor who speaks Russian?”
As things got underway, the supervisor from the Boston office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services explained that the order of activities related to the different color packets given out to organize the applicants. (He referred to one kind of packet as “skin-colored,” which considering his experience and the broad spectrum of skin colors in the room, seemed odd.) Staff conducted people efficiently along tables where their papers got checked. Then the judge entered.
When the judge entered, the hall became a courtroom. Becoming a citizen is a judicial process, we were told. A young man sang the national anthem. The judge started out lightheartedly by reading the list of 79 countries, making comments about his visits to a particular country or about the country’s soccer status. (I guess “football” is an international language.)
In the solemn part, everyone took an oath of loyalty to the United States. As the complicated phrases were read aloud, the applicants held up their right hands and repeated the historical words about rejecting monarchs and potentates and serving in the military if required by law.
Finally, the judge asked the small citizen daughter of one new American to lead everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance. It was hard to speak. A wonderful moment.