FALLS TOWNSHIP >> They arrived at Pennsbury Manor on Thursday morning from 20 different countries with hopes, dreams and aspirations. An hour later, they left united, some holding American flags, and all beaming with pride as the nation’s newest citizens.
The Honorable Linda Caracappa, the Chief Magistrate Judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, presided at a naturalization ceremony, which saw 49 new Americans sworn in as citizens on the grounds of the reconstructed country home of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania.
They came from throughout the world from Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia and Belarus, Colombia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Latvia and Liberia, Mexico, Poland, Romania and Russia, South Africa, South Korea, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Ukraine and Vietnam.
“Each of these 49 candidates have been personally examined under oath by a designated officer,” said Brian Mintey, an immigration services officer, in certifying their eligibility for citizenship. “Each has demonstrated an understanding of the English language, a knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of history and principles in the form of the government of the United States. Each has been found to be a person of good moral character attached to the principles of the Constitution and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States ... I respectfully recommend that all candidates be admitted as citizens of the United States and their name changes be granted.”
Naturalization Clerk Aida Ayala administered the Oath of Allegiance as the newest citizens pledged “to renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty ... and that I will support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America.”
The new citizens learned from Doug Miller, the historic site administer at Pennsbury, that William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, is responsible for many of the fundamental freedoms and protections enjoyed today by the nation’s citizens.
Often regarded as the “grandfather of the melting pot,” Miller said William Penn was unique among his contemporaries for recruiting a diverse population from throughout Europe when he was building Pennsylvania.
"This ceremony is meaningful to Pennsbury Manor because it celebrates the diversity that gives the United States of America strength," he said. "When the new citizens are sworn in, they accept certain rights that owe their origins to Penn’s work, including freedom of religion, the right of the common man to vote, the right of juries and trial by jury.
"You guys are part of that legacy and you’re now part of the country and you get to participate in a government that owes, at least part, its origins to William Penn’s work," said Miller.
According to Miller, Penn was the first colonial Governor to set up a governmental structure that gave the common man the right to vote, not just landholders. “He also set it up so we could have freedom of religion. We all come from different backgrounds. Some don’t practice a religion, but we have a great depth of religious diversity within this state and within this nation. And now as new citizens you are welcome to worship as you choose or not worship.
“We also enjoy the protection of the rights of juries and trial by jury,” Miller continued. “These precepts owe their origins, in part, to William Penn’s work ... You are the continuation of William Penn’s legacy. You are now part of our national history.”
Robert T. Repko, Esq., the president of the Bucks County Bar Association, called the event “a celebration of citizenship.
“Moments like this allow people like me who were fortunate to have been born as a U.S. citizen, to look at what being a citizen actually means. And it means a lot.
“Being here today reminds me of my great-grandparents who immigrated here from Eastern Europe. I was fortunate to know my great- grandmother and hear and remember some of the stories from when she had come here. I’m kind of stricken today being part of this thinking that the very oath that all of you have taken today is the same oath she took when she became a United States citizen.
“And that was something she was very very proud of. And I hope that as all of you leave here today you walk away with that same sense of pride of now being a United States citizen.”
Gazing out over the diversity assembled on the lawn in front of Pennsbury Manor, he expressed thanks to the gathering of new citizens.
“Thank you for believing in the United States enough to want to become a part of this country. I want to thank you for believing in your fellow US citizens enough to want to join their ranks. And I want to thank all of you for thinking of yourselves enough to make this commitment and to see this journey through for your friends, family and most importantly yourselves. Today is a wonderful day. You have accomplished a great thing. I hope you go forward and enjoy every opportunity that our great nation has to offer you.”
The new citizens also heard from Bucks County Clerk of Courts Mary Smithson, whose own grandparents came here from Ireland in search of a better life, became U.S. citizens and fulfilled their dreams, and Elizabeth Fritsch, from the League of Women Voters, who encouraged the new citizens to get involved, participate and to vote.
“I’ve been a judge for 19 years and I’ve attended many of these," said the Honorable Judge Linda Caracappa. "And it’s just a wonderful day for me because I hear all the stories about how everyone came here. It’s always a heartwarming day.
“And guess what? Next year we are going to have a census in the United States and even though the citizenship question will not be on the form I would write it in the margin anyway. I am a US citizen,” the judge told the new citizens.
The new citizens also heard from one of their own - Austin Dusuk Yang, who immigrated here in 1999 from South Korean to pursue his education and now works in Philadelphia as a general manager and lives with his wife and children in Furlong.
“When I came to the United States it was not with the intent to get citizenship. But for 20 years I worked here. I got married here. I had children here and my love for this country grew,” he said. “And now I want to call this nation my home country and I want to participate in the voting which will reflect my opinions. So I’m here to stay.”
The ceremony concluded with the Pledge of Allegiance and the presentation of naturalization certificates.