Twenty-two candidates from a diverse array of 14 countries, such as the Central African Republic, Philippines and Costa Rica, became American citizens today at a naturalization ceremony at the Weehawken Elks Lodge.
German Ruiz hails from the Dominican Republic and he’s been here since June 2010. He’s said he’s so happy to finally become an American citizen because he wants to pursue educational opportunities here that weren’t available to him in his own country.
He has big dreams, as he wants to study to become a marine biologist.
“I want to study animals. It’s been a dream since I was 10 years old. As a child, I had a lot of dogs and fishes, I just love animals since then. I used to watch [Saving] Nemo and that really got me hooked to study animals,” said Ruiz.
He didn’t refrain from describing conditions in his home country that compelled him to seek citizenship in the United States.
“In the Dominican Republic, it’s very hard to move forward in life. It’s a Third World country, so there isn’t a lot of opportunities. Here, there are more opportunities,” said Ruiz.
His father is still in his home country, but his mother, who herself immigrated from the Dominican Republic several years prior, joined him to witness him receive his citizen certificate from Newark representatives of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“She had a lot of problems coming here, she was alone at first. But she persevered and now we’re here and everything [has] come to fruition. All that hard work paid off,” exclaimed Ruiz.
Today’s naturalization ceremony hosted by Weehawken American Legion Post 18 over this Veteran’s Day weekend is the second time in six months, the previous being over Memorial Day Weekend.
After the USCIS representatives played a recorded message from President Donald Trump welcoming America’s newest citizens, Ray Miller, the past commander of the American Legion Department of New Jersey, gave the keynote address.
He told the 22 candidates that while the pursuit of happiness is enshrined in the U.S. Declaration of Independence and that economic opportunities is afforded every American, happiness and riches aren’t guaranteed.
“I didn’t want them to think that they would come into this country, and they would automatically be given riches and happiness, that it has to be worked for, just like every American has to work to pursue those dreams,” began Miller.
“If you just sit around and do nothing, and wait for that to happen, it’s not going to. You have to work towards it, you have to make sure that your families are intact, that your jobs are intact. Once that is all taken care of, then the happiness will come. It’s just not given to you, that’s what I was trying to get across.”
Troy Mack of Weehawken American Legion Post 18 explained the opportunity to host naturalization ceremonies with USCIS for Hudson County residents provides an opportunity for the veteran community to remember their fallen brothers and sisters.
“We remember them by welcoming others to step into their space, step into their memory, and lift up the banner which each one of use carried in the defense of the United States, our families and our homes,” Mack said.
We streamed most of the ceremony to our Facebook Page, which can be viewed below: