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24 take oath, making 2002 a banner year

Antonio Brito sneaked across the Mexico-U.S. border in a box truck to pick produce.

Dr. Stoytcho Stoev convinced a communist government to let him come to America to research medicine.

Myriam Medellin came at age 12 with her family on a six-month travel visa and stayed to start a new life.

Years later, the trio can call America not only their home, but their home country. They joined 21 others yesterday in being sworn in as citizens of the United States.

The ceremony capped a year in which 510 people became naturalized citizens in northwest Ohio - more than three times the number in 2001.

But talk of statistics played little in the ceremony in U.S. District Court, in which guest speaker William Meyer stumped citizenship.

“Up until this morning, we were all children of one God regardless of faith,” Mr. Meyer, a lawyer, told the 24 new citizens. “And this morning, we are all going to be children of one God, one flag, and one country.”

For Mr. Brito, 37, his citizenship yesterday ended a 13-year journey that began when he paid smugglers $100 to get him across the border in 1989. He went to Florida to work the fields with his brothers, who had sneaked in earlier. Mr. Brito was able to get his two young sons smuggled through the border to join him.

The family ventured up to Ohio to work the fields here in the summer, and he settled in Archbold in 1991 to work at Sauder Woodworking. He married in 1993 and got his green card in 1994.

He's now working in Napoleon at Tenneco Automotive.

“I just wanted to have a better life and better education for my kids,” he said.

Dr. Stoev, 62, had worked in Bulgaria's Academy of Sciences. In 1984, the Medical College of Ohio invited him to study here for a year. Even though Bulgaria was a communist nation at the time, he was able to get permission to visit Toledo for a year.

He returned to Bulgaria, but made two more trips to MCO for research. By 1994, Bulgaria had become a democracy but still had little money for research.

So Dr. Stoev decided to make Toledo the permanent home for himself and his wife, Mariana. She became a citizen this fall.

“This country gives you a wonderful opportunity to be a scientist,” he said.

Ms. Medellin, 25, left Mexico with her mother and younger brother in 1988, officially to visit an uncle in Toledo. But when their six-month travel visa expired, they stayed.

Her mother worked in the fields for two years, then got a green card and moved to Toledo, where Ms. Medellin went to school. She graduated from Libbey High School in 1994 and now works there in food services. With her new citizenship, she wants to go to college to become a teacher.

“It was a hard life, but it got better,” she said. “I got the opportunity to go to school here that I couldn't have gotten over there.”

Also naturalized yesterday were:

Bulgaria - Sofia Ivanova Ilieva.

Canada - Christopher Scott McCallum and Paul Robert De Saint Victor.

China - Zifang Huang, Richard Ka Loi, Peng Nie, Li Jun Zeng, and Ke Sheng Zhao.

El Salvador - Renata Sosa Walters.

India - Veena K. Chopra.

Iran - Hassan Behniay.

Jamaica - Nicholas Dalel Orlando Grant.

Jordan - Nazeer Omar.

Lebanon - Zaher Riad Mourad.

Mexico - Luz Amada Cooley, Luis Hugo Medina, and Rosalinda Papai.

Phillippines - Carmen Marcellana Walczak.

Syria - Joumana Youssef Rechou.

Uruguay - Mirta Susana Parodi and Jose Enrique Parodi.

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