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New Americans take oath in Chambersburg

June 01, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Nine people from eight countries on four continents took different paths to achieve the same goal Tuesday night: United States citizenship.

A beaming Herta Rosa Aguirre, of Chambersburg, brought perhaps the biggest cheering section of all those who took the oath at the Franklin County Courthouse. Her husband John, Franklin County's human resources director, was on hand for the ceremony with five of their 10 children.

She and John met in Germany when he was in the Army 30 years ago. They lived in both countries over the years before coming to Chambersburg in 1993.

Ann Ade Onikepe, of Waynesboro, Pa., and her daughter, Angela, were sworn in together. They came to the United States nine years ago from Nigeria.

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Ann, who works at a day care center in Waynesboro, said her husband is a professor of languages who has worked at the United Nations and taught at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Md.

Angela, a student at the University of Pittsburgh, said the best thing about America is freedom.

When asked why he came to America 11 years ago, Miguel Puente-Carriazalez said, "Just like everybody else - for opportunity, a good job, a better life." He is a construction worker living in Chambersburg.

"Wow, that's a big question," Thailand native Joy Dellastatious, now of Fayetteville, Pa., said when asked what she liked best about America.

"The freedom to shop as much as she wants," her husband Andrew said.

She first came to America as a student in 1979 and returned for good in 1985.

"The first thing that impressed me was the people, she said. "American people are very honest."

"If this country had a war, I could die for it," she said.

Nine years ago, Niamate Bouhelal-Leeper, of Chambersburg, met her husband, Paul Leeper, at the American Embassy in Rabat, Morocco, where he was working on a contract for the U.S. State Department. Now she is raising their three children.

"It's green. ... That's what you notice when you first come here," Niamate said. Her northern African homeland is not as lush as her adopted home, she said.

Other newly sworn citizens were Saqeb Iqbal Malik, a native of Pakistan, Analiza Cook, originally of the Philippines, and Jonathyn Sungjin Pan, a native of Korea.

After Prothonotary Linda I. Beard administered the oath of citizenship in the 134-year-old courtroom, they received flag pins, Bibles and other tokens from local civic organizations. They were serenaded with patriotic tunes from Faust Junior High School Brass Ensemble.

"In some places, worshiping God in the way one chooses is dangerous or even fatal. In America, you may worship as you wish as long as you respect the rights of others to do the same," County Commissioner G. Warren Elliott told the new Americans.

"Today in many countries, political disagreements with the ruling parties leads to arrest, torture and death," Elliott said. "In America, you may disagree loudly and often without fear."

President Judge John R. Walker emphasized the need for those in the group to be involved and informed voters and to fulfill their obligations as well as exercising their rights as citizens.

"This is only the beginning of your journey as an American citizen," Elliott said.

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