Immigrants celebrate July 4th by becoming citizens

Photo by Alphonso Abbott Jr.- Frank Seator, in the forefront with dreadlocks, is among the new citizens who recite the Oath of Allegiance at the Independence Day Naturalization Ceremony held at Old Salem Museum & Gardens.

Immigrants celebrate July 4th by becoming citizens
July 06
04:00 2017

The United States welcomed 50 new citizens from 26 countries at the Independence Day Naturalization Ceremony held at Old Salem Museum & Gardens on July 4th.

The possibility of rain caused the service to move indoors, where a packed audience of friends, family members and onlookers filled the seats, lined the walls and spilled out the door of the Gray Auditorium.  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regularly holds naturalization ceremonies year round, but they’re more numerous around Independence Day.

The ceremony’s speaker, Luis Lobo, a native of Costa Rica and executive vice president and manager of multicultural banking at BB&T, congratulated the new citizens.

“Today you have accomplished one of the greatest goals of your life,” he said “You have become an American citizen.”

The immigrants, who took the Oath of Allegiance and received their Certificate of Citizenship, hailed from all over the world. The countries included Mexico, Sudan, Ghana, South Africa, Germany, Vietnam, Colombia and India.

Though their citizenship was new, they had been longtime residents of the country. Frank Seator came from Liberia with his family in 2003 to find a better life in the United States and now resides in Greensboro. He’s attending Greensboro Technical Community College with plans to transfer to North Carolina A&T State University and major in marketing. He said he was very happy to finally have his citizenship and all the privileges it brings, like a U.S. passport and voting.

“Every time I fill out an application, I can now check the citizen box,” he said.

Anton Moussaev, a Winston-Salem resident and Russian native, has literally been counting the days it took him to become a citizen. He said it’s taken him 10 years, six months and eight days to finally get through the oftentimes complex process of becoming a citizen.

“It’s been a challenge,” said Moussaev. “Today is a very exciting moment.”

Moussaev’s family also immigrated to the United States while looking for a better life. He joined his family in the United States in 2006 after graduating from Moscow State University. He now works locally as a Realtor. He said despite rhetoric from some U.S. politicians, those he’s met in the United States have always made him feel welcome.

Moussaev is married to John Rincic. Normally marriage to an American citizen is a path to citizenship, but that was prevented by the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibited the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages. When DOMA was declared unconstitutional in 2013, Moussaev was among the first in the nation to petition for citizenship under the newly recognized unions.

Old Salem’s ceremony kicked off a full day of festivities at the living history museum of the historic town of Salem, N.C., which was the first place in the country to celebrate July 4th in 1783.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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