On Thursday, February 21st, Holland’s Herrick Public Library hosted Naturalization ceremonies for the first time. In morning and afternoon ceremonies, a total of 154 people from 47 countries were welcomed as new United States citizens. The very moving ceremonies contained all the ingredients needed to emphasize the importance of the event. The ceremonies included the presentation of colors (the flag), the singing of the National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Administration of the Oath of Allegiance for all new citizens. The new citizens were greeted by officials from the library, the county, and immigration agencies from the Holland community.
Sarah Yore-VanOosterhout, executive director of Lighthouse Immigration Advocates gave opening remarks at the morning session. The Holland Sentinel quotes her as saying, ”By taking this oath, you are contributing to this country’s cultural and ethnic diversity. Bringing fresh ideas, new traditions and beautiful values to our communities and opening the door for many to follow in your footsteps – all the qualities that truly make America great.”
The keynote address was given by Mick Dedvukaj, the district director for the Great Lakes District of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. He is a naturalized citizen himself, and he explained the process for people who enter the country legally and then become citizens. He urged the new citizens to take advantage of opportunities by voting , using free education resources, and even running for office. He told them that after they take the oath and receive their certificate, they “will be just as American as someone whose family has been here for hundreds of years.”
A video address by President Trump preceded the Presentation of Certificates of Citizenship.
Dudvukaj reported that the number of people applying for citizenship has been increasing for several years. He was pleased with the ceremony in Holland, and plans to continue holding ceremonies here for the near future.