naturalization

Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel M. Asquino addresses the crowd during a naturalization ceremony, encouraging them to get involved in their communities.

Mount Wachusett Community College served as the backdrop welcoming 271 Massachusetts residents from 58 different countries as new U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony on March 15 in the Fine Arts theatre.

The ceremony was carried out by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The Honorable Timothy S. Hillman, United States District Judge, presided over the ceremonies with the clerk of the court administering the Oath of Allegiance to America’s newest citizens.

As the event began, Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel M. Asquino addressed the soon-to-be citizens as the proceedings got underway. He encouraged those being nationalized to get involved, reminding them that the country was built by immigrants who strove for change and engaged actively in governing a new country.

“Congratulations to all of you who are about to become a citizen of the United States of America,” said Asquino who explained what it meant to be a citizen. “It is being engaged, voting, taking care of one another, your neighbors and your citizens … as you become citizens and leave us today make our democracy better than it is now.”

Senator Stephen Brewer reminded those gathered of the commitment the United States has made to immigrants; offering a promise of welcome. To these new citizens being welcomed, he emphasized the refrain of E Pluribus Unum – out of many one – that epitomizes the melting pot that is the United States.

“You become a part of the greatest country in the world and we welcome you,” Senator Brewer told the gathered crowd.

Gardner Mayor Mark P. Hawke took a somewhat lighter tone as he noted that although the crowd represented members of 64 communities, none of those gathered to become citizens were from Gardner. He spoke of Gardner’s history as a location for immigrants and the positive impact they had on the area’s culture and economy before encouraging those at the ceremony to become a part of the future of the city.

“We do have a rich history of immigrants in the city and I seriously do hope you consider the city of Gardner if you ever consider relocating in the future,” said Mayor Hawke to laughter from the audience.

On Wednesday, 271 people took the Oath of Allegiance at Mount Wachusett Community College during a naturalization ceremony.

The real stars of the event were the 271 citizenship candidates who originated from the following 58 countries: Albania, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brazil, Burma, Cambodia, Canada, People’s Republic of China, Colombia, Cote D’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Hong Kong, India Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Russia, Senegal, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and Vietnam.

The candidates reside in the following Massachusetts cities and towns: Acton, Ashburnham, Auburn, Bedford, Billerica, Boston, Boxford, Bradford, Burlington, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Clinton, Concord, Danvers, Dracut, Dudley, Fitchburg, Georgetown, Gloucester, Greenfield, Groton, Haverhill, Holden, Holyoke, Hudson, Lancaster, Lawrence, Leominster, Littleton, Lowell, Manchester, Marlborough, Maynard, Methuen, Middleton, Newburyport, North Adams, North Andover, North Billerica, North Oxford, Palmer, Paxton, Pepperell, Petersham, Pittsfield, Reading, Salisbury, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Southbridge, Springfield, Sudbury, Templeton, Tewksbury, Webster, Wenham, West Springfield, Westborough, Westfield, Westford, Westminster, Wilmington, Winchendon, and Worcester.

As he closed the ceremony, Judge Hillman again encouraged the new citizens to make use of their newfound rights and become involved.

“I am proud to call each and every one of you a fellow American,” said Judge Hillman. “Perhaps you or one of the children in this room today, hopefully more than one, will become a great leader of this nation.”

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit www.uscis.gov.

More than 200 immigrants from 53 countries around the world became U.S. citizens on Feb. 6 during a naturalization ceremony held at MWCC.

Community colleges are often referred to as “the Ellis Island” of American higher education, so it was only fitting that 207 Massachusetts immigrants from 53 different countries officially gained U.S. citizenship during a Naturalization Ceremony held at Mount Wachusett Community College on Feb. 6.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services selected MWCC as the setting as part of its ongoing initiative to bring ceremonies to local communities, as well to recognize the college’s 50th anniversary, said Joseph S. Forte of the USCIS, a former Gardner resident and alumnus of MWCC.

The USCIS presented the candidates for naturalization to the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, before the Honorable Robert B. Collings, United States Magistrate Judge, who also administered the Oath of Allegiance to America’s newest citizens.

The 207 new citizens emigrated from 53 countries and now live in communities throughout Massachusetts, including Athol, Bolton, Clinton, Gardner, Harvard, Leominster, Lunenburg, and Worcester. Two of the new citizens serve in the U.S. military and were recognized during the ceremony.

“It is a tremendous honor for Mount Wachusett to host this Naturalization Ceremony and participate in your celebration,” MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino said. “Across this country, community colleges like Mount Wachusett have consistently provided an “open door” to education as an aide in helping all residents achieve the American Dream. That is why they have been named the Ellis Island of Higher Education.”

“Each of you has traveled great distances – both in miles and in life experiences – to reach this moment. Today, as I look out at the faces before me, I can only imagine the times of struggle and difficulty that you have overcome. You have no doubt sacrificed and worked earnestly to bring you to this day of achievement. As you celebrate this day, I encourage you to continue to deepen your relationship with this welcoming nation.”

He encouraged the new residents to “fully participate in this democracy” and make civic engagement their next cause. “Civic engagement, service to others, is the fiber that strengthens this country and in the final analysis, strengthens each one of us,” he said, adding that civic engagement is a hallmark of Mount Wachusett Community College. “As you go forward, let the joy and pride you feel at this moment as American citizens always serve as an inspiration to others. Congratulations.”

The United States has a long history of welcoming immigrants from all parts of the world. During the last decade, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services welcomed more than 6.6 million naturalized citizens into the fabric of our nation. In fiscal year 2012, approximately 676,396 individuals became U.S. Citizens.

Individuals seeking to become a citizen of the United States must apply for naturalization and fulfill certain eligibility requirements set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act. These general eligibility requirements specify that the applicant must be at least 18 years of age; be a lawful permanent resident; have resided in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident for at least five years; have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months; be a person of good moral character who is able to speak, read, write and understand the English language; have knowledge of U.S. government and history; and be willing and able to take the Oath of Allegiance.

MWCC student Paige Crane, who is studying photography and is active in Theatre at the Mount, sang God Bless America and the National Anthem.

Judge Collings called the day “a joyous occasion,” not only for the new citizens and their families, but for the judges who preside over the ceremonies. Though many of the ceremonies take place at Faneuil Hall, “It’s a great idea to have ceremonies the communities so other citizens can observe them and appreciate them as they go forward,” he said.

In his remarks to the new citizens, Judge Collings noted that the United States is “a nation of immigrants,” as described by President John F. Kennedy in a book of that title. Unless they are Native American, “we are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants,” the judge said, whose father was naturalized in the 1930s and whose daughter, adopted from Korea, became a U.S. citizen at age two in the 1970s.

Judge Collings spoke of the blessings of becoming a U.S. citizen, as well as the responsibilities, including an obligation to serve in the military if needed, voting in election, and serving jury duty if requested.

“It was a long time coming,” said one jublilant new citizen, who moved to Shrewsbury eight years ago from Kenya. Others participating in the ceremony said they came to the United States with the hope of building a better future for themselves and their children, referred to their new citizenship as “not just a privilege, but a responsibility.”