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New citizens sworn in at Martinsburg courthouse

April 26, 2013|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • Newly naturalized U. S. citizens t bow their heads during the closing benediction of the ceremony in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg. Rev. Dr. Sherman Lambert, Sr. delivered the prayer.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Forty men and women from 20 countries raised their right hands Friday morning in the federal courthouse in Martinsburg and pledged their allegiance to the United States of America.

They were sworn in by U.S. District Judge Gina M. Groh in a second-floor courtroom.

Groh told the new citizens of her own family history, of her grandfather, Amadeo Minichilli, who arrived in this country in 1920 with $40 in his pocket. He was naturalized and called this country home, she said.

“My grandfather taught us to exercise our rights and to protect the rights of others,” Groh said.

There were children in the audience, including a few babies who ignored the solemnity of the occasion.

“This is a family celebration,” Groh said. “If your baby makes noise, it’s OK. Please, don’t be embarrassed.”

Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, who represented the State of West Virginia at the ceremony, called out the names of the new citizens following their swearing-in and handed them certificates of citizenship.

“Almost three years ago, I was honored at the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival as the Italian American Woman of the Year,” Tennant said. “It would not have been possible if my grandparents and great-grandparents had not been brave like you and had not left their homeland of Italy in search of a new life. On the day he became a naturalized citizen, my grandfather told his wife, ‘When I come home from today, no pasta. I want apple pie.’”

Delfino Trejo Resendiz, 40, of Charles Town, W.Va., grew up in Mexico and came to America 21 years ago. He works as a chef at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va.

He spoke of what he learned about America and its government while studying for the citizenship test that all candidates must pass.

“It’s very nice to be a citizen now, and I’m thankful for that,” he said.

His wife, Niwayan, plans to apply for citizenship next year, Delfino said. The couple’s children, Maria, 12, and Ari, 10, were born here.

Ana Miriam Ochoa of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., came to the United States 15 years ago. She works as a waitress at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. She praised Susan Fischer, the woman who taught her English and prepared her to take the citizenship test she was required to pass.

“They had to know the answers to 100 questions on United States history and government,” Fischer said.

The questions were based on what a high school senior should know. Many native-born Americans wouldn’t be able to answer a lot of the questions, she said.

Maria Purly Agcaoili Timmerman, of the Philippines, lives in Ranson, W.Va., with her husband, Fred, and their sons, Joshua, 6, and Matthew, 5.

She said the citizenship process was quick.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity, for the freedom, the democracy,” she said.

Julianna Wolfe, 54, of the United Kingdom, came to America more than four years ago. She lives in Martinsburg with her American husband. She owns an antique shop in Frederick, Md.

“I bought my first home in December,” she said.

Wolfe wore a dress appropriate for the occasion. The floor-length dress bore the colors of the American and British flags.

A desk was set up downstairs in the courthouse where the new citizens could sign voter registration cards.

The St. Joseph School Choir provided the music.

Letters were read from U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va., and U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd.

Native lands of the new citizens were Barbados, Bolivia, El Salvador, France, Germany, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iran, Jamaica, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, People’s Republic of China, Peru, Philippines, Togo, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

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