At district court on Friday, Judge Curtis V. Gomez administered the U.S. Naturalization Oath to 33 new Americans. Gomez remarked that it was apt that the new citizens be welcomed into the fabric of the nation on the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Although King’s birthday is celebrated on the third Monday of January every year, his birthday is actually Jan. 15. Gomez told the new citizens that the date is also “now your own special holiday.”
“I’m sure you are all familiar with Dr. King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” Gomez addressed the new Americans. “It is a testament to the greatness of this country that, as our nation matures, that which was aspirational is becoming realized.”
Gomez told the new citizens that as sure as great national dreams can be realized, each person among them had the ability to achieve their own personal aspirations within the United States.
The individuals listening from the courtroom benches and waving miniature American flags were of all ages. They came from many different countries of origin, mostly around the Caribbean region.
The highest number, nine, had come from the island of Dominica. Five had come from St. Kitts and Nevis. Four each started their journey in Antigua and Barbuda and the Dominican Republic. Three each had come from the United Kingdom and Haiti. Two hailed from the British Virgin Islands. Individuals had also emigrated from St. Lucia, Guyana and the Netherlands.
The courtroom was also filled with family, friends and well-wishers.
“Usually there aren’t a lot of smiles [in District Court]” said Gomez. “Usually the courtroom is divided –some people sitting over here and others over there. Everyone comes here wanting a thing and not everybody leaves with the thing they want.”
“Today the thing you come for is citizenship and, by the end of this ceremony, I intend to confer citizenship to anyone who seeks it,” Gomez continued.
Following the administration of the Naturalization Oath and the Pledge of Allegiance, guest speaker Glenda C. Wrensford, a surgeon, delivered an address to the new citizens. Wrensford moved to the Virgin Islands from St. Kitts at the age of 13.
“Not long ago I sat where all of you are sitting,” said Wrensford.
Wrensford recounted that she had not wanted to leave St. Kitts when she was a teenager. Her mother thought her children would have a better access to higher education if the family emigrated.
At first, Wrensford said, the journey was hard. In St. Kitts her family had owned their own home; in the Virgin Islands they all lived in a single room.
Wrensford said that it wasn’t until she wanted to join the Peace Corps that she decided to change her status from permanent resident to citizen.
“I’ve never once looked back and regretted my decision. It opened up a world for me,” she said.
Wrensford said her access to educational opportunities was hugely expanded as a citizen, and she told the new citizens, some of them senior citizens, that it is never too late to seek out higher education classes.
After another welcoming address by Kathy Redman, southeast region director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a message from President Barack Obama was played on the court room’s projector. The president thanked the new citizens for “helping us write the next great chapter of our American story.”
Delivering the invocation and benediction at the naturalization ceremony was Julie Armbreuster of the Baha’i Faith. Immigration Service Officer Peter Torres assisted Gomez with the distribution of certificates.