New residents sworn in during International Festival

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published October 15, 2015

 Alex Marina, 8, of Troy, and his sister, Eva Marina, 6, perform a Romanian dance in the Southfield Pavilion.

Alex Marina, 8, of Troy, and his sister, Eva Marina, 6, perform a Romanian dance in the Southfield Pavilion.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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SOUTHFIELD — From Albania to Uganda, 51 candidates from 20 countries were sworn in as U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to kick off the International Festival Oct. 10.


Now in its 89th year, the International Festival, a weekend event celebrating the world’s vast array of cultures, took place Oct. 10-11 at the Southfield Pavilion.


The event is sponsored by the city of Southfield and the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit.


The hourlong ceremony, presented by the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit and the city of Southfield, was held at 10 a.m. Oct. 10 and featured a presentation of colors from the Southfield police and fire honor guards, as well as various speakers congratulating the new citizens.


Bob Sullivan, of the International Institute, said a few words on behalf of the organization to welcome attendees to the ceremony.


“You are all about to embark on a journey of a lifetime as a United States citizen,” Sullivan said.


Acting Mayor Donald Fracassi and City Council President Sylvia Jordan also said a few words.


“When I look at the faces here and think back, neither one of my grandparents were born in this country, and I’ve heard a lot of stories of when they came over to the United States and settled here in the metropolitan area. They always expressed with a big smile how they were able to get over the ocean and come into these great United States of America,” Fracassi said.


Jordan spoke on the diversity of Southfield.


“The city of Southfield, one of our key messages is ‘A place for everyone,’ so we welcome you not only today, (but) in years to come, and truly consider this to be a place you can call home,” Jordan said.


Lisa Y. Jones, supervisory immigration services officer for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, opened court for U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith, who administered the Oath of Allegiance to the new citizens.


Goldsmith also delivered the keynote speech, complete with an a capella version of “America the Beautiful.”


“We are immigrants because we still have faith in America as a land that welcomes everyone into the American family — no matter where they were born — because once someone assumes citizenship, whether by birth or by raising their hand and swearing to it as you did today, you make yourself part of the American family,” Goldsmith said.


An audio message from President Barack Obama was played.


“This is now your country, your home to protect, defend and to serve through active and engaged citizenship,” Obama said in the message.


Fabjola Hotaj, of Shelby Township, said she has been trying to become a citizen for 15 years, ever since her family came to this country from Albania. Her sister, Jabriela Hotaj, was born here, and her mother, Zina, is still working on gaining citizenship.


“It’s such an honor. I’m so, so happy that after all we’ve gone through, we’re finally here,” Fabjola Hotaj said. “I’ve been here so long that I already do feel American, but it’s nice to have it on paper.”


Hotaj said she, her mom and her sister planned on grabbing a bite to eat for lunch to celebrate.


Ayoub Ibrahim, of Taylor, said Oct. 10 was his five-year anniversary of being in the United States. Originally from Sudan, Ibrahim left his country over political issues, he said, and first went to West Africa before coming to the U.S.


“I’m so glad to be a citizen, and I’m so happy it’s done, because it was a lot of years — I would like to be a citizen for a long time,” Ibrahim said.

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