Without stumbling over their words or hesitating, 20 immigrant schoolchildren flawlessly recited the Pledge of Allegiance and repeated the Oath of Allegiance to receive their U.S. citizenship at a ceremony Friday in Brooklyn.
The children, ranging from 5 to 15 years old, received a certificate of citizenship Friday. Their parents, all naturalized citizens who hail from 19 countries, looked on with pride and hope that their children will one day have an American Dream story of their own.
The first immigrant child story the children heard came from Manhattan federal Circuit Court Judge Denny Chin, who arrived in the United States in 1956 when he was 2. He, his parents and siblings gained entry into the United States because his grandfather, a Chinese waiter, immigrated in 1916 and became a citizen in 1947. It allowed him to bring his family to New York.
“He had to live away from his family because he could make more money waiting tables than in China,” Chin said. “He shared an apartment with other waiters in Chinatown and sent money home.”
Chin, who has his grandfather’s naturalization certificate framed and mounted in his chambers, said his father, a cook, and his mother, a seamstress, became citizens in the 1970s. He was 11 when he became a citizen.
“I hope you appreciate that you are American citizens,” Chin told the children Friday. “Some of you may be too young to understand, but it has its privileges and obligations — to vote and serve on a jury. But right now your obligation is to go to school and study hard and help your family or a neighbor with their packages. . . . Volunteer at a senior center, but most of all learn to appreciate and respect our differences.”
Also sharing his immigrant story was Peter Kim, executive director of the Museum of Food and Drink, where the ceremony was held. Kim’s mother and father immigrated from Korea, and would later become a nurse and an engineer, respectively.
“They worked very hard and became citizens. They are my heroes,” Kim said, explaining the American immigrant story is twofold: As individuals, the children will reap the benefits of American citizenship, but “America is also very lucky to have you. You will shape what America will be in the future and I see a very bright future.”
Andres Gomez Garcia, 11, arrived in January to join his mother Diana Garcia, 34, who recently received her citizenship after five years of living in White Plains.
“It took five years of visiting him [in Colombia] and getting all the documents and the process completed,” she said.
“I hope my son will have a similar story like the judge,” Garcia said with a smile, adding she came to the United States for “economic prosperity and a better future for my son.”
Andres said in school “the other children are teaching me English. I am following my mother’s guidance to study hard for a better future and a good university.”