Individuals put their hands over their hearts for the Pledge of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony Feb. 16 at the Macomb Intermediate School District in Clinton Township.

Individuals put their hands over their hearts for the Pledge of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony Feb. 16 at the Macomb Intermediate School District in Clinton Township.

Photo by Deb Jacques

After years of waiting, 50 granted brand-new lives in an hour

They take the Oath of Allegiance to become naturalized U.S. citizens

By: Kristyne E. Demske | C&G Newspapers | Published February 19, 2018

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Fifty people, 14 countries, one dream: American citizenship.

“A lot of opportunities open to you now,” said Inam Almosawi.

She should know. The 19-year-old graduate of Utica High School took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States as part of a naturalization ceremony Feb. 16 at the Macomb Intermediate School District.

Along with 49 other immigrants, Almosawi’s Oath of Allegiance was witnessed by family, friends and students from Center Line, Warren Woods and Utica Community Schools. Her mother took the oath at the same time, which also meant that her two younger sisters became citizens as well. When parents who have children under age 18 with valid green cards living in their care take the Oath of Allegiance, those children also become naturalized citizens at the same time, said Lisa Jones, supervisory immigration services officer.

Almosawi’s sister, Dimah Al-Rishedawee, a seventh-grader at Grissom Middle School in Warren Consolidated Schools, said she was “happy, but nervous” before the ceremony. It was nothing compared to how her sister felt when she had to take her citizenship test, she said.

“She got really sick,” Al-Rishedawee said of her sister, who, like some other immigrants, changed her last name as she became a citizen.

The family came to the United States from Iraq five years ago, said their middle sister, Ghadah Al-Rishedawee, a senior at Utica High School. She said her mother and Almosawi spent a lot of time studying and preparing to become citizens, but they were both very nervous.

Almosawi said the examiner put her at ease, though. Now she’s excited to have the opportunity to vote and travel, as well as to be able to earn a degree that will be recognized in every country.

Those opportunities are right in the word “American,” said Jones. She pointed out that “I can” is at the end of “American.”

“Before today, people would always tell you what you can’t do” without citizenship, Jones told the gathered crowd. After taking the Oath of Allegiance, she said, “You look them in the eye and tell them, ‘I can.’”

“This is the culmination of the lawful immigration process,” said Mick Dedvukaj, district director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. “You will be swearing allegiance to this country. In the United States, we don’t care where you come from — we care who you are and what is in your heart.”

Along with Iraq, former citizens of Albania, Bangladesh, Canada, Egypt, India, Italy, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Syria and Vietnam took the Oath of Allegiance at the ceremony, administered by Magistrate Judge David R. Grand, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, who then handed them each their naturalization papers.

Grand said that the United States wouldn’t be the country it is without immigrants.

“You are going to help our country and our growth and prosperity,” he said.

For Hernan Chavarin, of Macomb Township, the experience had been 13 years in the making. An immigrant from Mexico, Chavarin said he wanted to become a naturalized citizen for his family, a wife and two young daughters.

“It was very, very hard,” he said. “I’m so excited to be American now, and this is a good part of my life.”

He said having citizenship is freeing because he feels like he can “do whatever I want” without his citizenship in question.

Rony Nisso, of Sterling Heights, said his wife’s naturalization made her feel the same way.

“She is proud because we became American citizens,” he said of Zena Hana, who changed her name as part of her citizenship. She came to the United States five years ago from Iraq. “She has freedom here. She can live in peace.”

The MISD has hosted a naturalization ceremony in its Educational Services Building annually since 2014, said Sean McBrady, social studies consultant for the MISD. He said being able to witness the ceremony is “a culminating learning experience for students.”

“They’re learning about the naturalization process itself,” he said, so it is great for them to be able to see the ceremony in person.

The ceremony left Warren Woods Tower ninth-grader John Wilczek at a loss for words.

“It’s a good thing that people are becoming citizens the right way,” he said.

Warren Woods Tower social studies teacher Kate Walczy said her students are learning about citizenship, immigration and the naturalization process, so she’s hoping that students like Wilczek will be able to share the experience with their classmates.

“This gives them a perspective on real life and not taking their citizenship for granted,” she said.