Naturalization ceremony welcomes new Americans

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Like generations of immigrants before her, Sadoozai Panah Ihsan left her homeland and came to the United States for work.

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Immigrants take the oath of allegiance to become U.S. citizens during a ceremony at the U.S. District Courthouse in Augusta.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Immigrants take the oath of allegiance to become U.S. citizens during a ceremony at the U.S. District Courthouse in Augusta.

Not because there weren't jobs in her home country, but because she could be beaten or killed if she accepted one.

That fear is one she will never have again, said Ihsan, who became an American citizen Thursday during a ceremony in the U.S. District Courthouse in Augusta.

"I go to work, I have a stable life. Women (in Afghanistan) cannot work without fear," said Ihsan, who lives in Augusta with her Afghani husband and American-born son.

Once a year, the second-floor courtroom is transformed from a place that administers justice to Americans citizens to one that bestows American ideals and justice on newcomers. For one day, the privileges of citizenship are given, instead of taken away.

The importance of the day was something District Court Judge J. Randall Hall noted in his speech to the more than two-dozen new citizens.

"To our new citizens, on behalf of this court and our nation -- we welcome you and we challenge you," Hall said, urging them not to take their new position for granted.

By the smile on Shehryar Khan's bearded face, it was hard to see how anyone could think that he might.

Khan, a Pakistani from Karachi who married an American, said all his life he has wanted to be an American citizen. The fascination began at an early age, when he would watch reruns of The Cosby Show and Full House.

Now, he lives in Augusta and sells Nissans at a local dealership. He has an 18-month-old daughter, Amber, who preceded him in citizenship.

"It's like a dream come true," Khan said.

It is also a relief for many. By this point in the process, they have completed interviews, tests and a wait that can last years.

Vanessa Pereira, 19, came to the U.S. a decade ago with her parents. Early on, she stopped watching Spanish language television so she could perfect her English. She studied the 100 potential questions for the test, but had taken American History in high school so it made the test easier.

"I actually wanted to start a life here," Pereira said. "I wasn't planning on going back."

Leah Schilling wasn't so sure. Schilling, who is from the Philippines and now lives in Savannah, met her husband, Lake, in South Korea. She struggled with the idea of giving up some part of her Filipino heritage.

"For me, it took so long to decide I wanted to become an American citizen," she said. "I'm Filipino. My family is Filipino."

Ultimately, it was the fact her children and husband were American citizens that changed her mind. It also helped that her best friend, Lavinia Bade, was also becoming a U.S. citizen. Bade and Schilling met while their husbands, who are both in the Army, were serving in South Korea.

By luck, they both took their citizenship oath on the same day.

"I want to vote," Bade said. "I want to bring my daughter -- my children here."

Reach Adam Folk (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.

A GLOBAL MELTING POT

Home countries of those naturalized at Thursday's ceremony include:

- Afghanistan
- Mexico
- Bolivia
- Pakistan
- Brazil
- Philippines
- Canada
- South Africa
- Colombia
- South Korea
- Ethiopia
- Ukraine
- India
- Vietnam
- Jamaica
- Zambia

Comments (12) Add comment
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wizzardx1
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wizzardx1 09/17/10 - 05:13 am
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Wonder how many new Americans

Wonder how many new Americans have ties to terrorist groups?We won't know until it's too late(Ft. Hood)There should be "a path to citizenship"for all (even terrorists) so they will be protected by constitutional law. We should all support reids addition to a military bill that will allow millions of illegal immigrants to skirt our laws and become citizens.

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 09/17/10 - 05:22 am
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These people are immigrants

These people are immigrants who came to this country and studied to gain the necessary knowledge to be integrated and assimilated into the American culture. The alien invaders who cross the Mexican border illegally aren't immigrants, they're criminals and should be treated as such.

billoftt
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billoftt 09/17/10 - 06:34 am
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I agree with JC; it isn't

I agree with JC; it isn't that hard to do things the right way and become an American. If a family of Afghans can do it, I am pretty sure a Mexican from 'right around the corner' of North America can!

Runner46
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Runner46 09/17/10 - 06:44 am
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It is so refreshing to read

It is so refreshing to read about people coming into the U.S. legally and enduring our application system to become citizens. Welcome to our country, fellow citizens!

corgimom
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corgimom 09/17/10 - 06:51 am
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"Wonder how many new

"Wonder how many new Americans have ties to terrorist groups?"

Yep, Jamaica, South Africa, Ethiopia- all KNOWN hotbeds of terrorist groups.

"There should be "a path to citizenship"for all (even terrorists) so they will be protected by constitutional law"

There already IS a path to citizenship- called naturalization, Wiz, did you sleep through Civics class?- and they did what was necessary to become naturalized citizens.

Did you even read the story?

Dian
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Dian 09/17/10 - 08:51 am
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Congratulations

Congratulations Danielle-Nicole.
It is a beautiful Gift that you received.
You will be a Big Plus for this beautiful USA.

KingJames
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KingJames 09/17/10 - 09:24 am
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Wiz, I don't know about

Wiz, I don't know about Reid's addition to a military bill, but I do know the military already has a lot of foreign nationals who serve this country. In areas with high concentrations of military bases and military personnel, the honor of becoming an American is not taken lightly and is fully supported by the military.

Taylor B
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Taylor B 09/17/10 - 09:26 am
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Good luck folks! Welcome to

Good luck folks! Welcome to the freedom club!

workingirl32
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workingirl32 09/17/10 - 09:36 am
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Wizzarddx1, If you study

Wizzarddx1, If you study US history, we all are from somewhere at one point, our ancestors were. so this is no new to me.

corgimom
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corgimom 09/17/10 - 01:21 pm
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KJ, serving in the US

KJ, serving in the US military speeds up the naturalization process and drastically slashes the huge cost.

KingJames
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KingJames 09/17/10 - 01:34 pm
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Corgimom, you're correct.

Corgimom, you're correct. However, I did state I'm not aware of the bill Wiz is talking about. I don't know that I would want an illegal alien serving with me in the military, but why shouldn't the country reward those who enter legally and are willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice with a quick path to citizenship? Once again, I don't know what Wiz is talking about, but I do feel military service should accelerate the naturalization process as you stated, and as I already knew.

gaspringwater
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gaspringwater 09/17/10 - 02:52 pm
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Excuse me for raining on this

Excuse me for raining on this glorious event, a Cinderella journey from terrible to wonderful. The article didn't say how many got naturalized in Augusta's courthouse but 5000 got naturalized in a Boston ceremony:

http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/news/statenewengland/854318-227/5000-swor...

The quality of life in this country is inversely proportioned to the number of people. And not many Americans are going to like it when the country gets as dense packed as Mexico City or India's Calcutta. Keep singing, " They're Coming To America," and we're headed toward over population, a lowered standard of living and increased environmental degradation. Not exactly something to rejoice about.

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