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W.Va. welcomes new citizens

September 10, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Thirty-five years after moving to America from Germany, Barbara Harrison has finally earned the right to vote.

Harrison was one of 28 new U.S. citizens sworn in Friday morning at a naturalization ceremony in Martinsburg.

"This is something I've wanted to do for many, many years but I kept putting it on the back burner. Now I feel complete," said Harrison, a Falling Waters, W.Va., resident.

Other new citizens included people from India, China, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Jamaica.

Before being granted citizenship, each applicant had to answer a few questions about American history.

Among them: What are the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, who is the governor of West Virginia, how many senators are in the U.S. Senate and who were America's enemies during World War II.

The test was no problem for former Canadian citizen Heidemarie Santos.

After 36 years in the United States the Berkeley Springs, W.Va., resident said she considers herself a true West Virginian.

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"I felt like an American without the paperwork," Santos said.

The naturalization ceremony in U.S. District Court cleared the way for each new citizen to register to vote, hold public office and serve on a jury.

U.S. District Court Judge Craig Broadwater said he has firsthand knowledge of the importance of the swearing-in ceremony.

Broadwater's wife, Chong, immigrated to America 20 years ago and Broadwater said it was a special day when she became a naturalized citizen.

"I know how much it meant to her so I can understand the depth of feeling of the people here today," Broadwater said.

"Until you become a citizen you are out of the mainstream of democratic life. You don't get much representation unless you vote," Broadwater said.

Holding his naturalization certificate, William Davy of Martinsburg said that after 29 years in America, he was excited about the prospect of helping decide the next president.

"I won't mind serving as a juror too," said Davy, who was born in Jamaica.

Friday's ceremony included speeches by West Virginia state Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, and representatives of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The Civitan Club of Martinsburg gave each new citizen an American flag and a book on the proper way to display it.

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