19 people from 14 countries who took their oath of naturalization at the Naturalization Ceremony on Flag Day, June 14, at Seattle City Hall. • Photo from OneAmerica Facebook page
19 people from 14 countries who took their oath of naturalization at the Naturalization Ceremony on Flag Day, June 14, at Seattle City Hall. • Photo from OneAmerica Facebook page

Refugees from Iraq, Mohammad Ali and his wife Adem Kadhim became proud parents after they were sworn in as citizens on Flag Day. They said they are proud of their choice to secure a future, and better opportunities, for their daughters.

Kadhim recalled the grueling journey that her family has gone through, which she said is finally paying off.

“The kids will be happy and proud [of] us … for their life [that we gave them in the United States],” Kadhim said.

It took about five years for the couple to complete the naturalization process. Ali came to the United States with his wife and eldest daughter Aya in 2011 after the situation got worse in Iraq.

Since coming to the United States, Ali said he has become more confident and more familiar with the English language. Ali is working as a shuttle driver for Microsoft. While contrasting his past life in Iraq with his new life in America, Ali said that “Iraq is messed.”

“I can provide my children safety and a good education in the USA,” Ali said. “They will have a better future here.”

Ali came to the United States knowing few words of English, and learned the language while living and working here; but he said he is proud that both his daughters will know English better than him.

“My kids will know the English language better than I do,” Ali said with a smile on his face.

Kadhim said she has become an entirely new person and that her citizenship has brought both new freedoms and new responsibilities.

“I can practice my freedom in the United States more than before and I am part of the strongest country,” she said.

One of those freedoms is access to education. In Iraq, Kadhim only completed a high school education. Here, she is studying business technology at Kirkland Community College. She said the strength of her new country helps her and that she now has access to financial aid that makes her education accessible to her.

“It is important to get education here to work,” Kadhim said. Her family cannot do without her financial support. But she said she is always worried about her parents who are still living in Iraq.

In 2014, Aden braved the dangers of Iraq to check on her parents and brothers and to see whether she could bring them to the United States. The situation, already bad, had worsened after ISS invaded. “There is death everywhere,” Kadhim said.

But she returned to the United States, leaving her family behind. When asked why, she explained: “The process to bring them [to the United States] is tough and long now.”

Kadhim and Ali were among 19 people from 14 countries who took their oath of naturalization at the Naturalization Ceremony on Flag Day, June 14, at Seattle City Hall. They hailed from Canada, Finland, India, Iraq, Jamaica, Mexico, Philippines, Romania, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. The event was jointly supported by One America and Seattle City Club.

The ceremony included three fifth-graders’ readings of their award-winning essays on “Why I’m Glad America is a Nation of Immigrants.”

They were selected from among their peers in a statewide competition. For one of the winners, 10-year-old Truc-Vy Lam, the topic was personal. She wrote her essay on the story of her parents and grandparents, who emigrated from Vietnam.

Lam read from her essay: “America welcomes everyone from many countries. America helps people who escaped from war; who escaped from Communism. America gives immigrants better lives and education. On the other hand the hand the immigrants make America become a nation of multi- cultures.”

Another winner, Kody Mikelson, expressed himself in a poem. He urged his audience to recognize that the United States is made of the mingled heritage of all its immigrants, the precious things that they bring with them from their homes—the customs, stories, and beliefs.

The winner of the essay contest was Jens Bishop.

Lorena Gonzales, Seattle’s first Latina City Council member, congratulated the new citizens and asked them to continue their civic engagement in this country.

Gonzales urged them to help their government understand and meet their needs, adding. “Elected officials need to hear from you … about your experiences living and working in Seattle. … Your struggles and successes are our struggles and successes,” Gonzales said.

Hyeok Kim, Seattle’s first female Asian-American Deputy Mayor congratulated and welcomed the new citizens. Kim emigrated from South Korea as the age of 5.

“Seattle is making a mark in the world,” Kim said. “It is welcoming the global nation of immigrants that call Seattle home.” She emphasized that the city and its officials value new citizens as assets to the Seattle community.”

At end of the ceremony every new citizen had small souvenir American flags which were distributed at the event and they immediately registered to vote and completed their passport applications.

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