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Published: Tuesday, 7/22/2008

Better lives are worth risk, 28 new citizens say

BY LAURA BENNETT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Former Iranian citizen Abdollah Aliakbarkha Afjeh reads some paperwork after becoming an American citizen yesterday. Former Iranian citizen Abdollah Aliakbarkha Afjeh reads some paperwork after becoming an American citizen yesterday.
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In 2000, Lorna Cervantes was on spring break with some girlfriends in Cancun, Mexico. She was taking a day trip to see a local bullfight when a winsome young man working the ticket booth caught her eye.

They exchanged numbers. He called her every week after she returned to the United States.

In 2001, they were married, and seven years later, Enrique Cervantes - looking sharp in a crisp suit and tie - stood in front of a crowded auditorium and became an American citizen.

Mr. Cervantes was one of 28 people who were naturalized yesterday at the Fifth Third Center at One SeaGate in downtown Toledo.

"It was a big venture to come to America," Mr. Cervantes said. "But when you're in love, you take the risk."

Michael Lieber, Sylvania s town crier, congratulates
Fatma El Sweafi Amer, a native of Egypt, on becoming a U.S. citizen after naturalization ceremonies held at the Fifth Third Center at One SeaGate in downtown Toledo. Ms. Amer was one of 28 people yesterday who took the oath of citizenship administered by U.S. District Court Judge Jack Zouhary.
Michael Lieber, Sylvania s town crier, congratulates Fatma El Sweafi Amer, a native of Egypt, on becoming a U.S. citizen after naturalization ceremonies held at the Fifth Third Center at One SeaGate in downtown Toledo. Ms. Amer was one of 28 people yesterday who took the oath of citizenship administered by U.S. District Court Judge Jack Zouhary.
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A variety of reasons - love, professional opportunities, family in the United States - drew the new citizens to seek American shores, but one theme was woven throughout the majority of testimonies:

"I came here for a better life," said Francisco Sanson Garcia, a native of Mexico.

U.S. District Court Judge Jack Zouhary hosted the ceremony, which included the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Sameera Chaudhary, a student at the University of Dayton School of Law, and a plaintive rendition of "America the Beautiful" by local musicians Nicole Khoury and Mick Mason.

"America's strength comes from the diversity of our citizens," Judge Zouhary said. "Today we showcase your names and add them to the fabric of our country."

Patriotism was plentiful at yesterday's ceremony.

A large American flag stood at attention next to the podium. Several audience members sported shades of red and blue. Children waved miniature flags as their relatives received naturalization certificates.

For keynote speaker Bhaskarappa Jakkaraddi, originally from India, the day was doubly meaningful: It was also his birthday.

"I've traveled to many countries and found America the best because this is the first country that was founded with a purpose," Mr. Jakkaraddi said. That purpose, he explained, was that "all men are created equal."

Judge Zouhary spoke about the values of America's founding fathers, and quoted definitions of patriotism coined by Barack Obama -"a very particular love for and faith in one another as Americans" - and John McCain -"the willing acceptance from Americans to try to make a nation in which all people share in the promise and responsibility of freedom."

Judge Zouhary cited the obligations of citizenship as voting, volunteering, sacrificing for the greater good - and jury duty.

"Your accents are beautiful notes to the founding American chorus," Judge Zouhary said. "You help sustain our democracy."

Mr. Cervantes, who was flocked by his two small children, spoke with sheepish pride of his new family and his job as diamond department manager for the local Jared the Galleria of Jewelry.

"It's been a great honor to be here," Mr. Cervantes said. "I've been very blessed to meet wonderful people. And that's not a speech. I mean it."

Those who became citizens and their countries of origin are:

Australia - Julie Anne Higby

Antigua Barbuda - Stephen Emanuel Williams

Belgium - Martin Maria De Beukelaer and Andrea Jozefina Pieter De Beukelaer

Canada - Iris Katherine Castillo, Douglas Charles Comrie, and William Mark Moir

Chile - Denise Francoise Shultz

Colombia - Catherine Helena Pina Parra

Egypt - Fatma El Sweafi Amer

Guyana - John McArthur Jemmott

India - Bhaskarappa Jakkaraddi

Iran - Abdollah Aliakbarkha Afjeh

Jamaica - Alecia Nohumia Mullings

Lebanon - Wafi Mounir Reda

Mexico - Enrique Cervantes, Salomon Flores, Francisco Sanson Garcia, Catalina Dominguez Martinez, and Patricia Trausch

Nigeria - Valentine Chukwuebuka Ononye

Pakistan - Sobia Farooqi Zafar

People's Republic of China - Liangyin Xie, Wenmin Wayne Zhang

Philippines - Maria Elizabeth Joseph

Romania - Nicolai Salgau, Sr.

Syria - Michael Alkhatib

Turkey - Berna Ovacikli

Contact Laura Bennett at:

lbennett@theblade.com

or 419-724-6728.



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