Kay Mi Yeon Moon, left, and her mother, Kyeong Eun Kay Moon, celebrate becoming citizens. The family came to the United States from South Korea more than two decades ago.
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After 24 years in Toledo, the 25-year-old college student, born in Seoul, was American through and through. That is, except for her citizenship.
College admissions personnel told her not to list herself as Korean and just to list herself as an American. It was virtually true, after all.
Her mother also was in this country for 24 years, but still without the right to vote - until yesterday.
At U.S. District Court in Toledo, 38 people, including the mother-daughter duo, took the Oath of Allegiance yesterday and became U.S. citizens.
The new citizens laughed and cried and hugged loved ones as cameras clicked and camcorders whirred to record the event.
"I've never really thought of myself as not a citizen. But [not being able to vote], that really annoyed me," said Kay Mi Yeon Moon, the daughter who is currently taking classes for her second bachelor's degree from Ohio State University.
New citizens include, from right, Raffaele Ormeggio, Alejandra Librado, Kyeong Eun Kay Moon, and Kay Mi Yeon Moon.
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The mother, Kyeong Eun Kay Moon, explained proudly that her daughter earned herfirst bachelor's degree in 2002 in "pre-med." The daughter flashed her a look, loaded with subtle daughterly irritation: "It was psychology," she corrected.
The daughter wants to attend graduate school for a master's degree in education, and grants and scholarships, plus loans, are more readily available to U.S. citizens, she explained.
Her father, Hee Moon, who aimed a camcorder from the audience, moved the family from Chicago to Toledo in 1981 because visa extensions were more easily had in this less-populated area, he said. He planned to mail his own citizenship application yesterday after the ceremony. At that point, he could list his wife as a U.S. citizen, an advantage that should clear his way, he said.
The best part of America is the freedom, he said: "I can do whatever I want, if I don't bother anyone."
Before receiving their citizenship certificates, the 38 people heard two speakers discuss the importance of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
"[The U.S. Constitution] is something we still have today, and it will go on. This is something you have," local lawyer Thomas Sobecki told the group. "Nothing like it ever existed before it was enacted in 1787."
Later, outside the courtroom, Tunisian-born Imed Romdhane Jmiai smiled broadly. He's a senior at Bowling Green State University and now a U.S. citizen.
"I think anyone outside the United States would be proud to be a U.S. citizen," he said. "It helps with everything, and it's an honor."
Others naturalized, listed by their country of origin, were:
Ethiopia - Lemlem Wubet.
Germany - Elke Heidi Bryant.
India - Anuradha Singh, Surendra Prakash Singh, S. Balagopal Nair, Paresh Mahijibhai Patel, Kalyan Krishna Policherla, and Ashutosh Mohan Kale.
Israel - Amer Tawfik Afifi and Theodor Bernard Rais.
Jamaica - Sheryll Yvonne Bailey.
Jordan - Khaled Mohammad Al Marrid.
Laos - Inh Saenthavvisouk.
Mexico - Juan Martin Torales Alvarez, Alejandra Librado, Margarita Hernandez Madley, Heron Chavez Martinez, and Salvador Godinez Rodriguez.
Nigeria - Nimota Idera Williams.
People's Republic of China - Ian Xiaoyan Gao and Mingde Li.
Philippines - Marivic Rivera Sheldon.
Poland - Radoslaw Krzysztof Bolek.
Romania - Danut Caitlin Coada.
Russia - Irina Alekseyenko Blessing.
South Africa - Moremi Reuben Mosidi.
Taiwan - Marina Liu.
Turkey - Nazife Amrou, Belam Gocmen, and Umit Gocmen.
Ukraine - Anna Valeriyivna Stembler Smith and Olga Straub.
United Kingdom - Raffaele Ormeggio.
Venezuela - Yelixa Aracelis Nunez Rouch.
Yemen - Nada Qaid Alsamawi.