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College Hosts Naturalization Ceremony for New Citizens

Twenty-one people from 10 different countries were sworn in as U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony held on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus Friday, Oct. 20.

The Hon. Glenn Suddaby, U.S district court chief judge; the Hon. Christian Hummel, U.S. magistrate judge; and the Hon. Gary Favro, U.S. magistrate judge, all alumni from the classes of 1980, 1977 and 1973, respectively, presided over the ceremony, held in the Alumni Conference Room, Angell College Center. 

Acting as master of ceremonies, Suddaby welcomed family, friends, soon-to-be citizens, and his two fellow Cardinals and colleagues on the bench. Following a performance of the “Star Spangled Banner” by the Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir, the candidates were presented for citizenship by Immigration Services Officer Sonja Lambert.

President John Ettling also welcomed the candidates to SUNY Plattsburgh, saying how suitable it was that a naturalization ceremony should be held here.

Student Among the Candidates

“Our college welcomes students from all over the world,” Ettling said. One of those students, Tamar Smalls, a human development and family relations major from Jamaica, was among the 21 being granted citizenship that day.

“More than 70 countries are represented on campus this semester. And since 2001, we’ve graduated more than 1,200 students from 96 different countries. This diversity makes us stronger as a college. Your step to citizenship makes us stronger as a nation. This is a great day for our new citizens and their families.”

Hummel told those gathered, “It is my pleasure and privilege to welcome you as citizens of the United States of America. On behalf of the United States of America, I can’t tell you how honored we are that you’ve chosen — out of all the countries in the world — to become a citizen of our country. Today, America is more than your home; it is your country. We are very proud of you, and we welcome you.”

“To our new citizens, America is now your country. It comes with rights; it also comes with responsibilities,” Favro said. “You have a responsibility to participate in our democracy. Become active in your community; make a commitment to keep the virtues of our country alive. You’ve chosen your citizenship. That makes you special.”


Smalls, who chose to become a U.S. citizen because of the uncertainty in the United States at the moment with regards to immigration, said the faculty in human development and family relations supported her and two of them — Professor Marty Frost and Lecturer Jacqueline Oertel — were there “to fill in for my family, who couldn’t be here today.”

“It’s a very special day for me,” she said. “It’s very meaningful. I’ve been feeling insecure this last year, and this is making me feel secure, but also very proud.”

In addition to family members and friends, honored guests in attendance included Dr. Colin Read, mayor, City of Plattsburgh and professor of economics; Dr. Ray DiPasquale, president, Clinton Community College; Suzy Johnson, Betty Ann King, and Betsy Metz from the League of Women Voters of the North Country; and Philip Noza, passport specialist, and Adela Hart, passport support associate, U.S. Passport Office. Michael Paul, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Field Office director, and Christopher Maynard, supervisory officer from CIS, were also in attendance.

Moved to Tears

After Dawn Shaheen, courtroom deputy, administered the oath for citizenship. Those assembled, representing the countries of Burma, Canada, Germany, India, Jamaica, the Philippines, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, and Vietnam, recited the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time as U.S. citizens. They were then called up to receive a certificate, a copy of the U.S. Constitution, and an American flag.

The Gospel Choir then performed a rendition of “America the Beautiful,” which moved many of the new citizens to tears.

After a luncheon for the justices, political science faculty and students interested in law careers, judges participated in a special alumni panel Friday afternoon where they discussed issues pertaining to the law.

The luncheon was sponsored by an Alumni in the Classroom Experience grant.

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