“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom, or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen … “
So begins the Oath of Allegiance that is recited at every Naturalization Ceremony for new citizens of the United States. These ceremonies can take place in nondescript federal office buildings, large convention centers or symbolic places like Ellis Island, a national park, or a national historic site.
But here in Malden, there is an annual tradition of naturalization, begun in 2011, and spearheaded by The Immigrant Learning Center, Inc. (ILC). The annual ceremony was first held at the Malden Senior Community Center, but has since moved to Malden High School. On Nov. 19, 2018, the annual ceremony naturalized 171 new citizens, who filled the center section of rows in the Jenkins Auditorium.
“This ceremony allows us to make an important contribution to our community,” said Diane Portnoy, ILC Executive Director. “Even though more than one-third of Malden residents are foreign-born, there had never been a swearing-in ceremony in Malden until The Immigrant Learning Center sponsored the first one in 2011. We felt it was important to give residents of Malden and surrounding areas a chance to participate in a ceremony close to home. Because it’s close to our offices, our ILC students and students from Malden High School have the opportunity to witness and be inspired by the ceremony.”
According to Portnoy, the significance of this ceremony is also tied to The ILC’s Public Education Institute. Both the Institute and this local ceremony provide evidence of the many immigrants who desire to become fully-contributing members of our community.
“I’m very excited. I am happy because this is an important day. Now I will be a U.S. citizen,” said Joanna, a native of Cape Verde, before the ceremony started.
Tenzin, who came to the U.S. from India, said, “I’m so happy to be here. It means a lot for me. Now I can go back to my home country and visit my family. I have not seen them in almost five years. My brother passed away last year and I was not able to be there for the rituals because I would not be able to come back to this country. This is the best country and now I will be a U.S. citizen.”
“It’s the best day of my life,” said Paola, who is originally from Brazil.
The ILC, in collaboration with the city and Malden High School, are able to give the ceremony a local flavor. The ceremony was presided over by Federal Judge Frank J. Bailey, who also serves as chair on The Immigrant Learning Center Board of Trustees. Jeantilus Gedeus, a former ILC student and now a teacher at the school, sang the National Anthem. Malden Mayor Gary Christenson and Malden Superintendent of Schools John Oteri each delivered an address to the new citizens. Jason Silverman, also on the ILC Board of Trustees, led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance. The opening and closing of the ceremony was led by Samantha Stoutenburg, a clerk for the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts.
Mark Correia, Development Director for the ILC, said, “We’re so very proud to have the opportunity to collaborate with the high school and U.S.C.I.S. [United States Citizenship and Immigration Services] again. This is a wonderful event—bringing together and welcoming new citizens into the community.”
Said Portnoy, “I’d like to welcome the public to experience this event with us next year on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. Many who are born in this country tell me that they find an unexpected emotional experience of pride and patriotism, a newfound understanding of one another and a greater feeling of connectedness within our community.”
Below, view a short clip from the Naturalization Ceremony. To see the full video of the ceremony, click here.