Salvador Salort-Pons at the DIA's Rivera Court is administered the oath of U.S. citizenship by U.S. District Court Judge Avern Cohn.


Standing in Rivera Court at the Detroit Institute of Arts, beneath the tempura panel of a baby in utero, Salvador Salort-Pons became the country’s newest American citizen Friday afternoon at 3.

When the DIA director finished reciting the 140-word Oath of Allegiance, the black-robed man in charge, federal Judge Avern Cohn, thundered, “Marvelous!”

Over 100 people rose to their feet in a standing ovation. Salort-Pons, 47 and dressed in a blue suit, held up his new certificate of citizenship, beamed broadly and blew a kiss to the crowd.

But American citizenship brings obligations as well as rights, about which Cohn was quick to instruct his charge.

“You will not have completed the citizenship process,” Cohn said, his hand resting on Salort-Pons’ arm, “until you register to vote. It is more important than ever,” the judge added, “for us to choose wise people for executive positions.”

Cohn also gave the Madrid-born Salort-Pons a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution, which the jurist said he carries with him every day.

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At the podium, Salort-Pons called the surrounding murals, with their multi-racial cast, a celebration of immigration. “That’s what America is all about,” he said, “people from all over working to make this the best country in the world.”

One member of his audience, Anita Rajpal, grew up in the south of India and was naturalized in 1978, five years after she married a Wayne State surgical resident.

Rajpal was at the ceremony with four family members, and said it reminded her vividly of America’s promise. “It represents the freedoms this country offers its citizens,” she said, “and the fact that you can become anything you like.”

This year, Salort-Pons will join well over half a million other immigrants who’ve waited years for the chance to take the oath, and vow to “renounce and abjure” loyalty to any “foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty.”

In fiscal year 2016, 752,800 people were naturalized, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Becoming a citizen is no walk in the woods, of course. Applicants must live in the U.S. at least five years as legal permanent residents, demonstrate English proficiency, and pass a test on American government and history.

Salort-Pons’ daughter, Piper, just entering her sophomore year at Phillips Academy, recalled tutoring her father on the historical basics when she was a seventh-grader.

“He was a very good student,” she said with a laugh, “and very eager to learn.”

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U.S. Oath of Allegiance

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

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