With the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in the distance, 30 people became U.S. citizens Tuesday during an emotional ceremony at the top of One World Trade Center.
This was the first time a naturalization ceremony was held at the rebuilt site of the Sept. 11 terror attacks and the symbolism was not lost on the crowd.
“No terrorist assault can destroy the American dream,” said Judge Robert Katzmann, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Katzmann administered the Oath of Allegiance to 30 candidates from 19 countries — ranging from China, Bulgaria and Brazil to South Korea, Russia and India.
Each of them had to meet a number of requirements, including a knowledge of U.S. government and history and be deemed a person of “good moral character” by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to get to this point.
Keynote speaker Preet Bharara, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, gave the new citizens words of advice and encouragement while reflecting on his family’s own immigrant story.
He recalled how he and his brother — just young children at the time — stood with their parents at a naturalization ceremony 40 years ago in Freehold, New Jersey.
“They taught us to love our country, but also to respect our heritage,” Bharara, a distinguished scholar in residence at New York University, said of his parents. “While America was our home, India could remain in our hearts.”
Bharara’s success as a crusading prosecutor and his brother’s as an internet entrepreneur was almost overwhelming for his normally stoic father.
“He brought our family to this part of the world with only a few dollars in his pocket and hope in his heart we would have a better life in this country,” he said.
Bharara said the fact he was “nominated by the first African-American president to become the first Asian-American U.S. attorney in Manhattan — you begin to believe anything is possible in America.”
Bharara’s story hit close to home for Joydeep Roy, 45, an economist at the city’s Independent Budget Office, who took the oath.
He and his wife came to the United States from India 20 years ago for school.
“It was really interesting when people share the same background,” said Roy, who also teaches at Columbia University. “But I think all immigrants can relate.”
Elizabeth Ibanez Chavez, 20, of the Bronx, and a student at Lehman College, said she became a citizen — in part — to encourage her parents to do the same. She and her family came to the United States from Mexico five years ago.
“They came here for us to have better opportunities,” she said after the ceremony. “I hope they do this, too.”