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New Americans join together in citizenship

CynthiAntonio (left) Jose IbarrAnastaciChuc all Waukegan take Oath Allegiance becoming United States citizens during naturalizaticeremony held Round Lake Beach Cultural

Cynthia Antonio (left), Jose Ibarra and Anastacia Chuc, all of Waukegan, take the Oath of Allegiance becoming United States citizens during a naturalization ceremony held at the Round Lake Beach Cultural and Civic Center. Antonio is from the Phillipines, Ibarra from Mexico and Chuc from Belize. | Thomas Delany Jr.~ Sun-Times Media

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Home away from home

Countries of origin for the 100 individuals sworn in as U.S. citizens on Monday included Australia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Columbia, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Finland, Georgia, India, Italy, Jamaica, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines, Holland, Republic of Serbia, Serbia and Montenegro, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Vietnam.

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Updated: October 19, 2012 6:06AM

ROUND LAKE BEACH — Lake County Circuit Judge Jorge Ortiz, describing himself as “the youngest of nine children of ‘campesinos’ from Puerto Rico,” drew spontaneous applause Monday when he addressed 100 men and women from 35 different nations as “my fellow Americans.”

“‘My fellow Americans’ — doesn’t that have a nice ring to it? Though maybe I’m getting ahead of myself by just a few moments,” said Ortiz, noting that the crowd gathered at the Cultural and Civic Center on Hook Drive had yet to take the naturalization oath of allegiance and receive their certificates of U.S. citizenship.

“I stand before you in awe this morning,” Ortiz said. “As I look out at this room into the audience, I see so many different faces and so many different nationalities, and it’s truly heartwarming to see this, because this country is truly a great melting pot.

“This is what makes this country so great is the diversity of cultures — a diversity that each and every one of you brings here,” Ortiz added. “We are all united because we are citizens of this great country.”

The mass swearing-in ceremony — co-sponsored by the Mano a Mano Resource Center and the Round Lake Area Library — was held in joint commemoration of Constitution Day, which marked Monday’s 225th anniversary of the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, and Citizenship Day.

Martha Medina, a field director with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services who administered the oath of allegiance, highlighted the link between the Constitution and the new citizens who were swearing to support and defend it.

“We have much to celebrate today. We celebrate you, who are new citizens, and the Constitution,” she said. “It is because of you that we remember the Constitution is more than just words (written) over 200 years ago ... It is a living document.”

Reading from a formal recommendation for citizenship, Stacy Summers, branch chief of the CIS Chicago field office, said each of the citizenship candidates had been found to meet all of the statutory requirements for naturalization, including living in the U.S. as a permanent resident for the proscribed period of time.

“Each has been determined to be person of good moral character,” said Summers, “supportive of our Constitution and form of government, and well disposed toward the good order and happiness of the United States.”

The candidates then stood as one to take the oath of allegiance, which among other tenets asks them to renounce and abjure allegiance to any foreign “prince, potentate, state or sovereignty,” and to bear arms, perform noncombatant service and/or perform work of national importance when required by law.

Among those taking the oath were Basith and Jaishri Meer, a Lincolnshire husband and wife who were born in India and naturalized in Canada, and were now becoming U.S. citizens. Following the oath, Judy Armstrong from the Round Lake Exchange Club led the new citizens in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance for their first time.

The incoming citizens also witnessed a videotaped greeting from President Obama, who told them that “together, we are a nation united not by any one culture or ethnicity or ideology, but by the principles of opportunity, equality and liberty that are enshrined in our founding documents.”

As the hourlong ceremony drew to a close, Bruce Johnson, co-founder of Round Lake Park’s Mano a Mano, recalled his grandfather’s immigrant experience and echoed Ortiz’s greeting as he offered the crowd his best wishes.

“I want to thank you for the contributions that you’re bringing with you — your skills, your talents, your experiences, your cultures,” Johnson said. “These contributions and the melding of so many cultures into one, undoubtedly, is one of our greatest strengths as a nation. ... I want to close with an honor that I soon won’t forget, and that is to call you all my fellow Americans.“

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