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Already leading in diversity, Brooklyn hosts landmark naturalization ceremony

October 21, 2015 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Chief Judge of the Eastern District Carol Bagley Amon leads all of the judges in administering the Oath of Allegiance. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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Brooklyn’s federal court marked a big milestone on Monday when it celebrated the 150th anniversary of the first naturalization in the Eastern District of New York (EDNY) with a special ceremony for the 50 newest American citizens.

“Today’s ceremony is a special one, not only for you, but for our court,” said Chief Judge Carol Bagley Amon. “Naturalization ceremonies are held in this courtroom four days a week and also in our courthouse in Central Islip. Last year, we naturalized over 60,000 people. We have more ceremonies than any other court in the nation.

“There is usually only one judge presiding,” Bagley Amon continued. “Today, for the first time in the 150 year history of the court, our entire bench has assembled to conduct these proceedings.”

Bagley Amon discussed some of the other notable naturalization ceremonies that have taken place at the court, including one in 1911 when President Theodore Roosevelt gave a speech, and three others that took place in Ebbets Field (1954), Liberty Island (1981) and St. John’s University (1991).

Bagley Amon also spoke about two EDNY judges who came to America as immigrants, Magistrate Judges Hon. Marilyn D. Go, who arrived from the Philippines, and Hon. Viktor V. Pohorelsky, who arrived from West Germany.

“As many of you may have done for your children, our judges’ parents and grandparents worked at difficult menial jobs to provide a better life for their children and encouraged them to pursue their education, which they recognized as the key to unlocking the door to achievement,” Badgley Amon said.

Leon Rodriguez, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, made the motion to administer the Oath of Allegiance, which was read by Bagley Amon. June Lowe, courtroom deputy to Judge Jack B. Weinstein, led the Pledge of Allegiance, and finally, Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals read some remarks.

“You, my fellow citizens — how good it is, what a privilege it is to say that, our country, this great country, is even stronger and greater than it was just a few minutes ago because you are now citizens of this great country,” Katzmann said. “How fortunate we are to have you here contributing your hopes, your aspirations, skills, heritages, cultures, language, music and food to the tapestry to this nation.”

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the U.S. Sonia Sotomayor was scheduled to speak during the event, but couldn’t appear due to a death in her family. Instead, Judge Dora L. Irizarry read Sotomayor’s remarks.

“We extend our heartfelt sympathy to Justice Sotomayor and her family at this very sad and difficult time,” Irizarry said. “Loss of a loved one is never easy to deal with. Knowing Justice Sotomayor and having shared a similar migrant experience growing up in the Bronx, I can assure you there is nothing she would have loved more than to be here today.”

The entire ceremony was wrapped up by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, who told “war stories” of working as an attorney in the EDNY and then called naturalization ceremonies the best part of his job.

“Part of the reason is because you all remind us of how special it is to be a citizen of this great country,” Johnson said. “You remind us of all the things we share as values, rights and privileges in this country because you worked so hard to get here today.”


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