Shiu Mangal, 36, from the Fiji Islands, said he came to this country because of its opportunities and because his wife is American. Deryck Anthony, 31, from Guyana, said he feels "there's a much better life here in a lot of ways." Marie Therese, 43, from France, came here because her husband is in the Army and because "I want to have a life like an American--a good life."
Yesterday, these three people and 51 other immigrants became U.S. citizens in a ceremony on the sixth floor of the U.S. District Court building here. Beyond the fact that it was Flag Day, giving a special significance to the event, the ceremony went as it does every second Tuesday of every month.
The applicants for U.S. citizenship sat in four rows in the courtroom decorated with paintings of retired federal judges. A four-man U.S. Marine Corps color guard filed to the front of the room and sat down, rifles pointed toward the ceiling, eyes covered by visors. Babies, soon to become citizens, cried.
Representatives of the Women's Bar Association of D.C. and the Daughters of the American Revolution welcomed the newcomers. On instructions of U.S. District Court Judge Barrington D. Parker Jr., who happened to have the duty of presiding over the naturalization hearing this month, each immigrant rose and called out his or her country of origin.
The new citizens came from Lebanon, Fiji Islands, Taiwan, Tobago, India, Japan, England, Germany, France, Colombia, Ecuador, Canada, Netherlands, Chile, Pakistan and Korea.
Referring to the adoption of the national flag by the Continental Congress 206 years ago yesterday, Sally Conner, a local DAR official who has been welcoming immigrants here for more than a decade, said, "The pride and the love of country we felt when the Marine color guard presented the flags a few minutes ago first was felt by the people in the 13 states, who were risking all they had, even their lives, to establish a country governed by themselves and a country that guaranteed their freedom."
Yet a latter-day dream, that of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., has not yet been achieved, D.C. Superior Court Judge Luke C. Moore, a guest speaker, told the immigrants. "We still have racial divisions and discord in this country. . . . that dream must, and I hope can, be realized," he said.
"Always say to yourselves, 'I can because I am an American,' " he added.
Repeating after Parker, the immigrants renounced any allegiance they might have to any foreign power or ruler. They promised to obey the laws and the Constitution of the U.S. And they swore they would fight for the United States if called upon to do so.
Parents recited the oath for the six infants who became U.S. citizens.
After the applicants received their certificates of U.S. citizenship, they had sandwiches, coffee and tea, provided by the Pan-Hellenic Association, which promotes Greek fraternities and sororities.