50 new U.S. citizens take oath at Rockville ceremony
From The Gazzette
Originally published May 2, 2010
By Andre L. Taylor, Staff Writer
Clutching a small American flag in one hand and her naturalization certificate in the other, Laura Njombua posed for pictures with relatives Saturday outside the Montgomery County Executive Office Building.
Njombua came to the United States in 2003 looking for educational and career opportunities she did not have in her native Cameroon.
On Saturday, Njombua, of Gaithersburg, was one of 50 new American citizens sworn in at a ceremony in Rockville.
"I can't wait to vote now," Njombua said. "I have wanted to vote in the country since I got here in 2003, and now I can."
County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) addressed the county's newest residents before the non-American-born citizens took the naturalization oath.
Karla Silvestre, Latino liaison for the county's offices of community partnerships, said non-native citizens make up 30 percent of Montgomery County's population.
Anna Anderson, coordinator for Maryland New Americans Partnership, said Saturday's mass swearing-in was the first her organization conducted in Montgomery County.
A total of 34 countries were represented at the ceremony, and 34 new citizens registered to vote afterward, Anderson said. The swearing in is the final step non-American born residents take to become full-fledged citizens.
Individuals from foreign countries must apply for citizenship and then go through an interview process with the U. S. Customs and Immigration Service, she said. Once they are approved for citizenship, they can be sworn in.
"The people who were sworn in Saturday had a choice to be sworn in in Baltimore or attend the ceremony we hosted in Rockville," Anderson said.
"To see all of these people take this step in their citizenship process is inspiring."
As the county's population continues to grow with the arrival of people from other countries, Silvestre said, her office reaches out to newly sworn in residents to connect them with the local government. Her office helps new citizens find resources for employment, housing and anything else they may need. They should know what county services they are now entitled to, she said.
"We want our new residents to participate in local government," Silvestre said. "It's important for them to be a part of their community and have an understanding of how the democratic process can work for them."