33 new citizens welcomed at Comerica Park

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Mariam Hani and her parents ran from Iraq to America to find freedom, they say.

They arrived in 2012, and after they were residents in the U.S. for nearly five years, the family applied to pledge their allegiance.

She said it was a tedious process, but after seven months, Hani, her mother and her father stood alongside 29 others and took their Oath of Allegiance on Comerica Park’s field.

“We came for freedom. We came for a new life,” Hani said.

George Malkoun of Sterling Heights, right, reacts after he becomes a U.S. citizen in a pregame ceremony. Detroit Tigers vs Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park in Detroit on June 29, 2017.

On Thursday, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services welcomed the 33 new citizens during a pregame ceremony before the Detroit Tigers vs. Kansas City Royals game.

The 33 new citizenship candidates originated from 15 countries: Canada, China, France, India, Iraq, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom, Turkey and Yemen.

This was the 10th annual ceremony held at Comerica Park near the Fourth of July. Ceremonies are taking place almost daily throughout the country. For example, last year, immigration services naturalized over 752,800 new citizens, 15,200 from Metro Detroit alone, officials said.

“We do four ceremonies a week, two every Monday and Thursday with about 80 people at each ceremony,” said Michael Klinger, field office director at the Detroit office of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

This week, more than 15,000 new citizens across the country will take their oath at Fourth of July themed ceremonies — 1,500 in Detroit.

Of the new citizens, George Malkoun, a Sterling Heights resident, said he waited 17 years before becoming a citizen because it takes time.

Yubin Ge of Troy gives a thumbs up after he becomes a U.S. citizen in a ceremony before the Tigers game on Thursday.

“I got married in 2002, and I came for my wife. We wanted better education. We wanted liberty, freedom and the pursuit of happiness,” Malkoun said.

A U.S. citizen applicant must be at least 18 years of age, a permanent resident with a green card for at least five years, physically present for at least 30 months, must have knowledge of U.S. government and history, be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance, able to speak, read, write and understand English and “be a person of good moral character.”

From the moment the applicant fills out an N-400 form, an application for naturalization, it can be up to a seven-month waiting period until he or she takes the Oath of Allegiance, said Anita Rios Moore, public affairs officer for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“I’ve done hundreds of these in court, but this is my first at Comerica Park, and it’s the most amazing and such a special opportunity for me,” said Stephen J. Murphy III, a U.S. District Court judge for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Eshraq Mohamed, 41, has been a resident for seven years of Dearborn after she fled from Yemen with her two children. Mohamed had two children more after she arrived. Her youngest is now 5 years old.

“I only come for freedom and for my kids’ freedom,” she said.

Judge Stephen J. Murphy, III, presides over the citizenship ceremony before the game. Detroit Tigers vs Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park in Detroit on June 29, 2017.

Alongside their certificates, the new citizens received a packet to apply for a U.S. passport, an American flag and any with children younger than the age of 18 became citizens through their parents’ oath as well.

Recently, the government released a free mobile app on iTunes and Google Play stores that help prepare applicants for the civics test during the naturalization interview. The app, “USCIS: Civic Test Study Tools,” is available in English and Spanish.

After naturalization, foreign-born citizens enjoy nearly all the same benefits, rights and responsibilities that the Constitution gives to native-born U.S. citizens, including the right to vote.

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Twitter: @SarahRahal_