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A journey complete: 49 new citizens

  • New American Pedro B. Quinteros becomes a naturalized citizen during a ceremony on the lawn of the Hampshire County Courthouse in Northampton on Tuesday. Originally from Peru, Quinteros now calls South Hadley home. GAZETTE STAFF/EMILY CUTTS

  • Grace Hotnogu, 5, waves a flag before the naturalization ceremony on the lawn of the Hampshire County Courthouse in Northampton on Tuesday, July 4, 2017. Grace's parents, originally from Moldova, came to the U.S. to Greenfield 11 years ago. —GAZETTE STAFF/EMILY CUTTS

  • Ruth Kimani, of Kenya, shakes hands with U.S. Magistrate Judge Katherine A. Robertson as she becomes a naturalized citizen during a ceremony on the lawn of the Hampshire County Courthouse in Northampton on Tuesday. Kimani came to the U.S. five years ago and calls Springfield home. GAZETTE STAFF/EMILY CUTTS

  • Susumin Aung, of Burma, raises her hand and recites the Oath of Allegiance as she becomes a naturalized citizen on Tuesday. Aung now calls Florence home. GAZETTE STAFF/EMILY CUTTS

  • Girl Scout Troop 12926, of Greenfield, posted the colors at the naturalization ceremony on the lawn of the Hampshire County Courthouse in Northampton on Tuesday, July 4, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF/EMILY CUTTS

  • Po Thu and his children Aye Chan, 3 1/2 and Jasmine 1 1/2, attended the naturalization a ceremony on the lawn of the Hampshire County Courthouse in Northampton on Tuesday, July 4, 2017. Thu wife's Susumin Aung, of Burma, became a citizen Tuesday. —GAZETTE STAFF/EMILY CUTTS

  • New American Taisiia Trygubenko, pictured with her 2-year-old granddaughter Daria Kochentkova, became a naturalized citizen during a ceremony on the lawn of the Hampshire County Courthouse in Northampton on Tuesday, July 4, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF/EMILY CUTTS

  • Grace and Gloria Hotnogu watched as their parents and aunt became naturalized citizens during a ceremony on the lawn of the Hampshire County Courthouse in Northampton on Tuesday, July 4, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF/EMILY CUTTS

  • Joselyn Palmer, of Jamacia, shakes hands with U.S. Magistrate Judge Katherine A. Robertson as she becomes a naturalized citizen during a ceremony on the lawn of the Hampshire County Courthouse in Northampton on Tuesday, July 4, 2017. Palmer now calls Amherst home. —GAZETTE STAFF/EMILY CUTTS

  • New American Hafez Alsmaan, of Syria, becomes a naturalized citizen during a ceremony on the lawn of the Hampshire County Courthouse in Northampton on Tuesday. Alsmaan now calls Pittsfield home. GAZETTE STAFF/EMILY CUTTS

  • New American Veaceslav Hotnogu, of Moldova, becomes a naturalized citizen during a ceremony on the lawn of the Hampshire County Courthouse in Northampton on Tuesday, July 4, 2017. Hotnogu and his wife and sister-in-law all became naturalized citizens. He calls Greenfield home. —GAZETTE STAFF/EMILY CUTTS

  • New Americans Mohamed Good and Samia Mafal, both of Canada, celebrate after becoming naturalized citizens during a ceremony on the lawn of the Hampshire County Courthouse in Northampton on Tuesday, July 4, 2017. Both now call Amherst home. —GAZETTE STAFF/EMILY CUTTS

  • Larisa Hotnogu, left, with her daughters Grace and Gloria, Laurie Millman, executive director for the Center for New Americans, Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, U.S. Magistrate Judge Katherine A. Robertson, Edmund Hillery, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services officer and Veaceslav Hotnogu gather for a picture on the lawn of the Hampshire County Courthouse in Northampton on Tuesday, July 4, 2017 following the naturalization ceremony. —GAZETTE STAFF/EMILY CUTTS

  • Rayan and Adam Lmaalen pose with their parents after the boys’ mother, Hind Burhim, of Morocco, became a citizen Tuesday. GAZETTE STAFF/EMILY CUTTS



@ecutts_HG
Tuesday, July 04, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — The 49 men and women gathered on the Hampshire County Courthouse lawn on Independence Day may have come from different countries. But as of Tuesday, they now all have one thing in common — they are American citizens.

From Argentina to Vietnam and 30 other countries in between, the group of new Americans smiled, waved flags and danced as they celebrated their accomplishment.

“I hope that there are many, many more proud moments for you and your families and your loved ones as you participate in your new life and you exercise the rights and obligations of citizenship that you’ve gained today, that you’ve earned today,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Katerine A. Robertson told the crowd. “We congratulate you, we welcome you, we wish you the very best the United States has to offer.”

In the crowd was Hind Bourhim of Morocco. Bourhim moved to the U.S. five years ago to join her husband, Said Lmaalen. They now call Easthampton home.

“I want to be American for the benefits, for everything and also to have a right to vote,” Bourhim said in an interview before the ceremony. “I like it here, the people here are really nice. The people are really helpful, not like other states.”

Bourhim said she was excited to become a U.S. citizen. “I can’t believe I did it.”

Her husband is already a citizen and her two young sons, Rayan, 4, and Adam 2, were born in the U.S. Following the ceremony, Bourhim was all smiles and she posed for pictures with her family and her new citizenship certificate.

“This is my home,” she said. “Today is my birth.”

This is the ninth year the Northampton’s Center for New Americans has hosted a naturalization ceremony on July 4th.

Bourhim, as well as seven other new Americans from countries including Jamaica, Pakistan, Myanmar and Moldova, worked with the center to prepare for their citizenship tests.

“Becoming a U.S. citizen is a tremendous journey and it means choosing to make the United States your home with all of the values and beliefs and rights that we hold dear,” Laurie Millman, the center’s executive director, said at the ceremony.

“It’s an especially poignant journey today on the birthday of this country, which is marked by our Declaration of Independence which listed our values and belief that we all have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that we believe that our government gets its power from us, the governed.”

Holding a bouquet of flowers, Ruth Kimani sat with her daughter waiting for the ceremony to begin. Moving from Kenya to the U.S. five years ago, Kimani said she came because she wished to live in a free country.

“We are excited and we are happy they accepted us to be citizens of this country,” she said. “There are so many good opportunities here.”

While Kimani came for the opportuniy, Ukraine native Taisiia Trygubenko said she came to the U.S. six years ago for the religious freedom.

With her two sons and granddaugther looking on, the West Springfield resident said she was very happy to become an American.

“I thought it was impossible,” she said. “I love America. It is country of freedom ... in the U.S., I feel good. I feel safe.”

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz encouraged the new Americans to get involved in their communties and even run for mayor — adding with a smile, “in another city, obviously.”

Narkewicz also touched on his own personal history of immigration. His grandparents were immigrants and his wife is a naturalized citizen.

“I am proud to be the mayor of a city which welcomes immigrants, which welcomes refugees and opens its arms to you and anyone else from around the globe and join our community,” he said.

Many speakers reflected on the country’s current political climate and Narkewicz didn’t shy away from the topic.

“We’ve heard a lot of rhetoric about immigration and immigration reform. We’ve heard a lot of rhetoric about national security. To me, this is what America is about. This is what makes America great, what’s happening today.”

Robertson echoed Narkewicz’s sentiment, saying at a time when there is so much divisive discussion about immigration in this country, the new Americans should feel welcome.

“We want you here, we want you as new citizens, you belong here,” she said. “This country would not be what it is today without people like you who’ve chosen to live here, to raise your children here, to raise your families and to work here and we value the contributions that we know you are going to make as American citizens.”

Standing next to his wife and their three daugthers and holding his American flag, Hafez Alsmaan, of Syria, was moved to tears.

“This is one of the most proud moments of our lives,” Alsmaan said after the ceremony.

Alsmaan and his wife Datty came to the U.S. from Syria on July 3, 2004. Thirteen years later, they are now Americans — something Alsmaan considers more than a passport and a piece of paper.

“It’s a set of values,” he said.

Becoming an American, Datty Alsmaan said, was a dream come true.

“We have too many blessings and this day was another,” Hafez Alsmaan said.

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.