Young immigrants celebrate citizenship

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Flag Day, June 13, passed without notice for many Americans. But for 25 of them, it marked the first time they could hold up Old Glory and call it their own. The new citizens, all children, took their naturalization oaths at the Queens Center mall in Elmhurst.

In a sky-lit plaza area between the Häagen-Dazs and the Pretzel Twist, they renounced allegiance to their old countries, recited the pledge of allegiance and listened to a recorded welcome from President George W. Bush.

“These beautiful faces before us today will soon be woven into the fabric of our great American country and for that we stand proud,” said Dawn Simon, the mall’s senior marketing manager.

The children, who came from Brooklyn and Queens, were born in 12 different countries: Bangladesh, Togo, Guyana, Yemen, Morocco, Haiti, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Egypt, China and the Philippines. They were accompanied by proud parents who snapped almost as many photos as the media.

Foreign-born children are eligible for citizenship as soon as one of their parents becomes a naturalized citizen, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Department’s Web site. The naturalization oath is the final step in the process.

Rosedale resident Christian Joseph, 10, came to the United States from Haiti with his mother, Rose, seven years ago.

“I’m very excited,” he said about the prospects of becoming an American. “At the same time, I’m very nervous.”

Christian said he has occasional “flashbacks” of Haiti, but is excited about the technological prospects of the United States.

“I want to go into robotics,” he said. “Or be an inventor.”

During the ceremony Christian was evidently able to relax enough to volunteer to stand in front of the crowd and help lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

Brooklyn resident Rem Gangrem watched his son and daughter take the oath. The Guyanese immigrant said it had long been a dream of his.

His 9-year-old son, Agi, said he was also excited.

When asked what his favorite part of living in America was, Agi smiled and shook his head.

“There’s too many to pick one,” he said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 6:40 pm, October 10, 2011
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