SOUTHFIELD — With his right hand over his heart and left hand holding an American flag, 32-year-old Abdullah Mallisho, a resident of Southfield, uttered the Pledge of Allegiance as an American citizen for the first time last Friday.
Mallisho, born in Hama, Syria, was one of more than 100 new citizens to be welcomed in a naturalization ceremony hosted at the Southfield Civic Center each year.
“It was exciting and surprising; they did it at the same time as the International Festival, so when you enter the room, you see flags from all over the world and things from different countries around the world,” said Mallisho, who came to America in 2009 for his internal medicine residency. “They gave good messages about what it means to be a citizen in America; it’s a new life. They said, ‘We don’t want you to leave your culture behind. … Being a citizen means you belong to this new country, you support the country now, and we will support you in terms of freedom.’”
The ceremony, which was held at 10 a.m. Oct. 4, was presented by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and was hosted by the city of Southfield and festival partner, the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit.
Guest speakers included Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, Southfield City Council President Ken Siver, USCIS District Director Mick Dedvukaj giving the welcome address and Magistrate Mark Random of the Eastern District of Michigan giving congratulatory remarks and leading the oath.
A total of 31 countries were represented in this year’s ceremony, and with 100 new citizens being naturalized, the event was just as successful as last year’s.
“The swearing-in ceremony is a very unique and fitting way to kick off the annual International Festival,” said Michael Manion, Southfield community relations manager. “This year, more than 100 immigrants from 31 countries became U.S. citizens right here in Southfield. What better way to kick off the festival that celebrates the diversity of Southfield and cultures from around the world?”
The IIMD provides free classes and assistance to immigrants who hope to become citizens. Once the application for naturalization is completed, the Oath of Allegiance is the final step in becoming a U.S. citizen.
Mallisho said that once his endocrinology fellowship at Wayne State University is complete next year, he plans to either join the faculty there or open up his own practice. He and his wife — a Syrian-American whom he met in Michigan soon after arriving in 2009 — are currently raising their 1-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter in Southfield.
“Our kids are raised here, and we will raise them with some of the same values from our culture and try to make them connected with family overseas,” he said.
Residents from all around metro Detroit welcomed their new citizenship that day: Shelby Township’s Duraid Alalwan and Aivan Fadhil, a husband and wife originally from Iraq; Novi resident Minh Huynh, from Vietnam; Madison Heights resident Jirmeen Serop, born in Iraq; and the Bahnam family of Farmington Hills — husband Bashar, wife Salwa and daughter Dalal — all naturalized together.
Joe Dzenowagis, member of the IIMD board of directors, served as the MC for the event and said the occasion was memorable for just about everyone in the room, including immigrants and their loved ones, as well as supporters and presenters.
“It was quite a sight to see how proud people were when Mick Dedvukaj, director of CIS, called for them to stand up as he announced their countries,” he said. “It was even more spectacular to see our newest Americans beaming across the stage to accept their certificate of citizenship.”
IIMD has been helping immigrants since 1919, he added, and noted that Randon, Dedvukaj and former IIMD President Mumtaz Hacque all shared the immigrant experience, themselves.
“People really listened to their moving stories and words of encouragement and acceptance,” Dzenowagis added. “I can’t imagine anyone at the Civic Center that day not being moved to tears and to smiles at the joy expressed by people becoming Americans.”
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