Detroit ushers in new citizens

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Detroit — Farah Alalwachi moved to the United States in 2011 to attend college and escape a violent, war-torn Baghdad, Iraq.

Since coming here with her family, Alalwachi’s immigrant status only allowed her limited freedoms.

But on Friday, that changed.

Alalwachi was among more than 80 people declared official U.S. citizens at the second annual naturalization ceremony held at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.

They will now be able to vote and serve on a jury with their new citizenship status.

“I chose the United States other than any other place in the world because I believe in this country’s values,” said Alalwachi, 33, a civil engineering major at Wayne State University. “We all come here for freedom.”

The immigrants honored at the event came from all over the world from countries such as Albania, Haiti, El Salvador, Venezuela, India and Germany.

The ceremony, hosted by the City of Detroit Immigration Task Force, came on the heels of news that the population in Detroit continues to decline and that for the first time since 1850, it is not among the nation’s 20 most populous cities.

The Immigration Task Force formed in 2014 to make immigrants feel more welcome in the local community. Detroit City Council members Raquel Castaneda-Lopez and Andre L. Spivey chaired the task force.

“It’s such an emotional ceremony for citizens because it really reminds you of what the nation’s core values are about,” Castaneda-Lopez said. “Being welcoming to everyone and embracing the suffering and struggling from around the world.”

Spivey said the task force promotes diversity.

“We want to create a more diverse community here in Detroit,” Spivey said. “To be an inclusive and a global city.”

For Dainora Gordon, gaining her citizenship Friday was a “dream come true.” She moved to the United States from Lithuania 15 years ago seeking more political and economic freedom.

Gordon, 38, of Walled Lake, said she is most excited about having the opportunity to vote.

“I decided to leave and come to the United States for a better life,” Gordon said.