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In Hartford Ceremony, 31 Immigrants Become U.S. Citizens


April 11, 2013

HARTFORD Katherinne Perez wanted to end the uncertainty.

The 22-year-old left the Dominican Republic when she was 12, enrolled in Hartford schools, graduated from Bulkeley High in 2007 and is studying to be an accountant. Yes, it offended her when a Manchester Community College classmate assumed that Perez, a legal resident, didn't have a Social Security number.

But what pushed Perez to stand with 30 other immigrants Thursday, raising their right hands in the atrium of Hartford Public Library, were visits back to the island.

"I know everything about Hartford; I know all the places," Perez said. In the Dominican Republic, she found herself needing directions, like an outsider. "So what am I? But now, it's clear ...

"You decide to be an American."

State residents born in Pakistan, Russia, the Philippines, India, Argentina and the United Kingdom were among those holding miniature American flags during a special session of the U.S. District Court of Connecticut. The federal Citizenship and Immigration Services holds naturalization ceremonies for about 680,000 new citizens a year, culminating with the oath of allegiance and a handshake.

On Thursday, the receiving line included Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, Hartford Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and Mayor Pedro Segarra.

Segarra proclaimed Thursday "Welcome to New Citizens Day" in the City of Hartford. At the state Capitol, the Connecticut Immigrant and Refugee Coalition held a separate event for the 16th annual Connecticut Immigrant Day.

"I don't cry at weddings," Segarra told the crowd at the library. "But sometimes, most of the time actually, all the time there's a little tear at these events because they're very special... We are a city of families. These are families that pay taxes, who have children in our schools, who contribute to the community."

Cromwell resident Mukul Vyas, 29, quietly high-fived his young nephew after taking the oath. In 2001, Vyas came from Nepal on a visa to attend college, and now owns a fragrance business, American Perfumery, at the Westfield Meriden mall.

Derrick Carlson, 30, a supermarket employee who lives in Brookfield, was born in South Korea and arrived in the U.S. as a 19-month-old needing heart surgery, said his adoptive mother, Linda Mae Carlson. She drove from North Carolina for the ceremony, she said, so he wouldn't be alone.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas P. Smith presided over the special session and declared, "You are now, almost, full-fledged citizens of the United States of America, the greatest country on the face of this earth." Then he urged them to register to vote.

Afterward, at a reception in the library's American Place, a center for free citizenship classes, East Hartford resident Arturo Perez said he would be next. He is from the Dominican Republic, studying for the naturalization civics test "Why did the colonists fight the British?" and learning English.

"Very, very orgulloso," Perez, 56, said of his daughter, Katherinne. Very proud.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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