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'Because I love your ... MY ... country'

39 immigrants from 21 countries became U.S. citizens Friday before U.S. District Magistrate Judge David J. Joel

April 29, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • New U.S. citizens Amson Alexander Brown, left, and Dieter Rolf Baumann, center, take their Oaths of Allegiance Friday morning from Nancy Zombek, Deputy In Charge U.S. District Clerk's Office at the U.S. District Courthouse in Martinsburg, W.Va.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Tanaphat Kennelly corrected herself Friday morning when asked why she took the oath that made her an American citizen.

"Because I love your ... MY ... country," she said.

 Kennelly, 45, a Thai native, was one of 39 immigrants from 21 countries who raised their hands and pledged loyalty to the United States before U.S. District Magistrate Judge David J. Joel Friday morning in an emotional naturalization ceremony in federal court.

 Kennelly, of Falling Waters, W.Va., has lived here since 2007 with her American husband and 16 year-old son who is also on his way toward citizenship.  An older son, 21, is still in Thailand but plans to come here soon, she said.

 "This is one of the few pleasant things that we have to do in this courtroom," Joel told the inductees before they took their Oaths of Allegiance and recited the Pledge of Allegiance for their first time as citizens.

 The courtroom gallery was filled to capacity with family and friends.

 Ron Duncan sang the national anthem and "God Bless America."

 Homelands of the newly minted Americans included Australia, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Columbia, the Dominican Republic, Dominica, Egypt, El Salvador, Germany, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Peru, the Philippines and Thailand.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Erin K. Reisenweber told the new citizens: "Don't lose your traditions. Make them a part of your new American culture."

 Reisenweber left them with a quote from former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis: "The only title in our democracy superior to that of president is the title of citizen."

 Remarks and presentations were made by Eugene Kinder of the Martinsburg Civitan Club and Alice Kogle of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

 Letters were read by aides to U.S. Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, both D-W.Va., and U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

  Patricia Elizabeth Hausafus of Kearneysville came to this country in 1998 from Peru. Her children, Matthew, 11 and Elizabeth, 7, were born here.

"I wanted to be part of the country too; to be involved as a citizen," she said.

 Devon Roy Wallace Taylor, 28, from Ontario, Can., has been in the United States since he was 4 years old. He teaches history in Warm Springs Middle School in Morgan County, W.Va.

 "I always wanted to become a citizen so I just decided to get it done," he said.

 Taylor said the process took about nine months and involved interviews in Baltimore and Pittsburgh with the U.S. Center of Immigration. He had to take a civics test, one that he said some average Americans would have trouble getting through.

"Some questions were tricky, like when was the (U.S.) Constitution signed," he said.

 A temporary voter registration office for the convenience of the new citizens was set up following the ceremony.

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