In the moments leading up to 11 a.m. Monday, the U.S. District Courthouse was silent.
But, in the minutes following the town crier's piercing three bells that opened the court, the room was never silent: children cried, a law clerk and district judge spoke, 28 individuals made oaths, and family and friends cheered. The half-hour was a game-changer for many people.
They may have had scattered pasts, but by the end of the ceremony, they shared a future: they were now citizens of the United States.
“Each of you has an individual story,” said Cathy Feehan-Garcia, keynote speaker and law clerk to Judge David Katz. “And yet, you have agreed to become American citizens. And today, we celebrate your spirit.”
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For brother and sister, Omar Albakri and Houda Husamuldeen Albakri, both of Sylvania, the naturalization process has been a "historical event." Escaping from war-torn Baghdad in 2006, Ms. Albakri said she and her mother followed her brother to Jordan after he had fled from Baghdad and northern Iraq.
Ms. Albakri said she had been an anesthesiologist in Baghdad and had been encouraged by her friends to apply to the United Nations. She said she was able to come to the United States with her family through the United Nations and the International Organization for Immigration. When they arrived in Toledo, they were told they were the first refugees to come to the area in 10 years.
“This is very touching and very exciting. ... Thank God we are blessed and safe and will be safe,” she said.
Judge Katz asked the new citizens to participate and become active in their communities, to enrich this country and be enriched by it. He also quoted Felix Frankfurter, an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court for 23 years starting in 1939, on being an American.
He read, “Democracy is neither a mystical abstraction nor a mechanical gadget. In the long course of human experience it has proven itself the only form of social arrangement which adequately respects, and by so doing helps to unfold the richness of human diversity.”
Judge Katz concluded his remarks by urging each new citizen to reach out to others to preserve liberty and a society that permits men and women to reach their potential.
Ms. Albakri, 48, said she is very excited and thankful. Three months ago, her brother’s wife gave birth to two daughters; in two years, her nieces are expected to become citizens as well, she said.
“It has been so great. Thank you, America,” she said. “Thanks to all.”
The new Americans and their native countries are:
Bangladesh: Tahrima Ferdous
Canada: Vasyl Sobetskyy
Iraq: Houda Husamuldeen Albakri, Omar Albakri, Elham Hasan Salami
Jordan: Bashar Salameh Yousef Gammoh, Rula Saleh Sbieh
Laos: Mai Youa Yang
Lebanon: Joud Rahal, Al Muhieddine Trabulsi
Liberia: Yar Kiepeeh Davay
Nicaragua: Pedro Miguel Valle
Pakistan: Farah Kamran. Fahd Nadeem
People's Republic of China: Jiayong Liu, Xiaochen Denise Liu, Huiling Qi, Liang Wu, Shi An Zheng
Philippines: Leo Aranas Escobedo, Lester Allan Go Pimentel
South Korea: Eun Ju Shin
St. Vincent-Grenadines: Andre Earl Lavia
Sudan: Ammar El Fadil Omer
Sweden: Anne-Marie Gudrun Dale
Syria: Razan Alsrouji
Tanzania: Shamim Shiraz Ibrahim
Vietnam: Nick Nhut Anh Nguyen
Contact Danielle Trubow at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6129.