49 people take oath of citizenship

By Matt Butner - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HANOVER, VA (WWBT) - They come from as far away as Korea and as close as Canada, but today 49 men and women can call themselves Americans after taking the oath of citizenship at Scotchtown in Hanover County.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, many of these new Americans can hardly contain their emotions.  Jihad Al-Saygh embraces his wife Stacy and 4 year-old son Adam, who are already citizens.

"I'm so proud of him for coming here and making a life for himself," said Stacy.

To understand the emotion, you have to know the back stories. Jihad came here from Jordan 10 years ago seeking religious asylum. He says it was hard being a Christian in Muslim country.

"The Christian people there are just 2%, like 2 people against 98," said Jihad.

Once in America, Jihad got his green card and then married Stacy 5 and a half years ago. This year, he became eligible for citizenship. But becoming an American citizen is no easy task.

"We think it's important in order to be a U.S. citizen; you have to have an understanding of that which you are pledging allegiance to," said Ja-nel James, Citizenship and Immigration Services.

So there's a test. Each applicant is given a book and an audio CD to prepare.

"You have to study, and I put the CD in my truck all the time," Jihad said.

The test covers history, government and basic English. There are also background checks. And then, there's the oath. Each new American swears off allegiance to his former country, and agrees to serve in the military of his new one.

"Giving the oath, I still feel every time it's special, it's never routine. I know that it's a one-time experience for each candidate, and I would never slight them by seeing it as a formality," said James.

In the end, Jihad says it's worth all the work. He most looks forward to being able to vote and travel freely between his home in Fredericksburg and his family in Jordan.

"Finally I got citizenship and freedom, and I can do whatever other people here can do," he said.

And that's true for all 49 of these new Americans.

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