|The eight persons sworn in as U.S. Citizens also had family, friends and fellow students on hand to support them; this young girl looked suitably solemn as she tried to follow the oath as her parents were sworn in.|
FOR RELEASE: Nov. 4, 2011
Eight new U.S. citizens were sworn in on Oct. 28 in a ceremony at the University of New Mexico-Gallup North Campus.
The new citizens, representing Nepal, Syria, Germany and Mexico, were all students of Laura Jijon, an English as a Second Language teacher and the interim Adult Basic Education program manager. All were enrolled in ESL classes. To become citizens, the students must achieve a basic mastery of English, as well as U.S. history and government.
“I’ve found most naturalized citizens know far more than those who were born here,” Jijon said.
The UNMG ESL program works in conjunction with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service at the local Catholic Charities office with Sister Janet Cashman. Catholic Charities, by the way, works with everyone on their paperwork and immigration documentation, regardless of religion. Besides representing four countries, the new citizens were, in addition to being Catholic, also Hindu and Muslim.
INS, by the way, is no longer the arm of the governmental agency that deals with deportation, Jijon pointed out. After Sept. 11 and the launching of Homeland Security, that agency became known as ICE, Immigration Custom Enforcement.
Jijon as an ESL instructor in Gallup has taught students from all over the world. Most immigrants, she says, have a great distrust of government, but feel comfortable in a school setting. That’s why the citizens who were recently sworn in were pleased to have their ceremony performed in the place where they had studied. In attendance were families, teachers and fellow students.
Also present were Mayor Jackie McKinney and UNMG Executive Director Sylvia Andrew.
“They were delighted that the mayor of the city and the leader of the college would be in attendance,” Jijon said.
Jijon said the new citizens have also been surprised and delighted at how supportive Native Americans – who make up a large percentage of the ESL students – are of their efforts to become Americans. She says a great deal of cultural exchange goes on in the classes, in terms of trading stories, and learning about each other’s food and customs. For instance, the decorations for the ceremony included some 3D Chinese characters, some Navajo weaving and some paper decorations appropriate for Ramadan, the Muslim period of fasting.
For more information on the ESL classes and working toward U.S. Citizenship, call Jijon at 722-6437.