76 enter WB as immigrants, leave as new U.S. citizens
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · September 28, 2012

“My country is hard,” Raul Sanchez said soon after swearing allegiance to the United States on Friday. “There’s no opportunities.”

Sanchez, originally from Mexico, joined 75 others at the Hoover Library-Museum for a naturalization ceremony on the east lawn.

“I came to the United States to work and send money to my family,” he said. “I’m really happy here. It has opened doors for a new life.”

He came to America 23 years ago and came to Iowa 20 years ago. He now lives in Cedar Rapids and said “everything here is better.”

“There’s a lot of discrimination in my own country,” he said. “But there’s not too much here.”

Sanchez said he feels “safe” in the United States.

“I can leave the car open and wear a gold watch,” he said, pointing out that he visited his home country last month. “In Mexico, they would rob you right away.”

With his new right to vote, he plans to.

“I will vote for who is better for the country,” he said. “I like to be fair, and I like people to be fair to others.”

Revi Jain of Cedar Rapids is originally from India. He has been in America for 11 1/2 years and in Iowa for six years. He works in aerospace sciences.

“I came for a better lifestyle, definitely,” he said. “But also because it is a better place to use my talents.”

Asked what he likes about his new citizenship, he said “That is an easy question, but difficult to answer.”

“Once I came here and saw the land, the good opportunities and lifestyles and that my kids could become citizens, it was a natural choice,” he said. “There was no one factor.”

Jain said it took six years to get his green card and five years to earn his citizenship.

“Going for the (citizenship) test was the best moment,” he said, smiling. “I had read the book, and when I spoke to my fellow citizens, I told them ‘I know more than you do!’”

Wallace Karanga came from Kenya in 2006 and applied for citizenship as soon as he could when he turned 20. He applied in February and moved swiftly through the process.

“It feels good,” he said. “I’m happy to say I’m an American citizen.”

Karanga attends Kirkwood Community College and said “school is much better here, and there are more jobs available here.”

His father and brothers became citizens last year and he wanted to join them as soon as he could. He plans to visit Kenya next year and try to convince his friends to come to America.

Hoover Library Director Thomas Schwartz welcomed the group, telling highlights of West Branch’s most famous native’s life, from being orphaned at age nine yet going on to become a millionaire through engineering and giving it all up to become a public servant. He finished by telling how Hoover had fed a billion starving people in his lifetime.

“Congratulations on becoming American citizens,” he said. “You came from 37 countries, but today you will become one.”

Ten of the 76 new citizens are from Bosnia-Herzegovina, more than any other country represented that day. There were six each from India and Sudan; five from Kenya; four from Liberia; and three each from Croatia, Canada and Vietnam.

Other citizens came from as far as Honduras, Australia, Sri Lanka, Macedonia, Pakistan, Iraq, France, China, Ethiopia and Romania.

U.S. District Court Chief Magistrate Jon Scoles said he conducts naturalization ceremonies every couple months in Cedar Rapids, yet “I still get a little emotional telling people they are citizens of the United States of America.”

U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin, as well as U.S. Reps. Dave Loebsack and Bruce Braley, sent representatives to read letters, welcoming and congratulating the new citizens and encouraging them to vote and bring to their attention any concerns they might have with federal agencies.

“You, by the nature of your individual experiences, can make our country better,” staffer Kim Taylor read from Harkin’s letter.

In a recorded message by President Obama, the leader of the free nation admonished the new citizens that “this is your home to protect and defend.”

“You have great responsibilities to contribute to the good of our nation,” he said.

Obama then closed by saying he hoped they would “help write the next great chapter” in American history.

“May God bless you and may God continue to bless the United States of America,” he said.

The Hoover Association has arranged naturalization ceremonies at the Hoover Complex for the past seven years. They schedule the ceremony the same week as Constitution Day, Sept. 17.

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