While U.S. President Donald Trump is still seeking federal dollars to build a wall on the southern border, Weehawken held its very first naturalization ceremony, welcoming 30 new citizens from 17 countries such as China, Algeria and Colombia.
The naturalization ceremony was held on the lawn of the American Post Legion 18 along Boulevard East this morning.
John Thompson, district leader for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, was the master of ceremonies who introduced one of the first key speakers, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner.
“You are becoming U.S. Citizens in the most diverse area probably in the world. Once you are part of this great American process, you’ll participate in the government. You’ve all lived here for a while, you know that we’re loud and raucous, we argue, but everyday, when we have an election, we all turn out,” Turner began.
“It’s always an issue to remind Americans that they have to vote because voting has consequences. So, my first message to you as newly American citizens please remember to vote.”
Four of the 30 different immigrants that are now American citizens live in Weehawken, and we had a chance to interview individuals whose original countries have the largest populations in the world: China and India.
Qi Wang told us he’s been in the United States since 2005 and emigrated here to take advantage of education opportunities.
“I just feel like it’s a new beginning, like I’m starting a new era in my life. I’m really glad of everything I’ve learned in the U.S. education system so that I can use my knowledge to benefit the country and also to make myself and family live better,” said Wang.
Arshad Syed echoed Mayor Turner’s message that he’s looking forward to vote when we asked him about the difference between living here for roughly 17 years as a non-citizen and now as a citizen.
“I think the one big thing is voting and being able to participate in the democracy, I think that is one major thing I couldn’t do before as a permanent resident.”
And he talked about the transition from coming here at the age of nine.
“It was a little bit difficult in the beginning, I think it was a bit of a cultural shock at first. But I think that I transitioned pretty quickly because I moved here at such a young age, so it was easier transitioning into school and culture than somebody who might have been much older,” said Syed.
Additionally, Turner also reiterated his opening message to the new citizens about the importance of voting when speaking with HCV.
“I told them that we are a very diverse country, and everybody gets along regardless of their religion, their race and their ethnicity. We try to make sure that everybody gets along. And secondly, that voting is important. A lot of Americans forget to vote, so voting is an important obligation and voting has consequences,” said Turner.
We live streamed the majority of the ceremony live on our Facebook page and it can be viewed below.