Sunday, July 18, 1999

800 people to become citizens


Ceremony planned at Sabin center

BY MARK CURNUTTE
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Some 800 immigrants, the largest gathering of its kind in Southwest Ohio, will swear allegiance to the United States during a mass naturalization hearing Aug. 25.

        The number of applicants is credited, partly, to 1996 changes in federal immigration law, including a clause that limits permanent residents' eligibility for public benefits.

        The large hearing is needed to accommodate those who have had to wait on the INS to process their applications.

        “Many of these people had been here 10 or 15 years and had been paying taxes,” said Ernest Barbeau, executive director of the International Family Resource Center, the immigrant- and refugee-assistance organization formerly known as Travelers Aid International. “They might not have been able to access public benefits without being citizens.”

        Eight federal judges and magistrates will participate. U.S. District Judge Sandra Beckwith will preside. To accommodate the large number of immigrants, the ceremony will be held at the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center.

        Immigrants from 70 countries are expected to become U.S. citizens that day. They are now living in the Cincinnati and Dayton areas.

        “These are persons who have made a deliberate decision to select this country as their future and the future of their children,” said Mr. Barbeau.

        “These are our future business people, artists, police officers,” he said. “They truly enrich us, not only in an economic sense, but culturally and ethically.”

        In 1996, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the number of U.S. immigrants increased 27.1 percent, to 915,900. The overwhelming majority of those immigrants — 81.9 percent — came from Mexico, according to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

        The hearing at Sabin Convention Center will begin with immigrants taking an oath of allegiance to the United States, in which they renounce allegiance to other countries.

        Rep. Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park, will then make remarks. Immigrants next will recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

        After a short break, the federal judges will individually hand out formal naturalization papers. Patrick Elersic, officer in charge of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) office in Cincinnati, also will participate.

        While adhering to the formality of a court proceeding, the ceremony will include color guards from three branches of the U.S. military, a performance by the Roger Bacon High School marching band and the participation of local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts as ushers.

        “This will be a time,” Mr. Barbeau said, “when the emotion will hit the road.”

        For information, call the International Family Resource Center at 721-7660.

       



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