25 in Metro Detroit mark Constitution Day as new citizens

Detroit -- dream came true Monday for 25 people who were sworn in as U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony at Wayne State University to mark Constitution Day.

Maria Camila Weigand beamed following the ceremony on Gullen Mall in the center of Wayne State's campus.

"It feels great," said Weigand, whose husband, Josh, and six-month-old daughter, Mia, witnessed the momentous occasion for Weigand. "I feel blessed ... so thankful to God."

Weigand, a 27-year-old Troy resident, came to the United States in 2001 when she was a child. She said the process to be a naturalized American took years.

Family members waved miniature flags as they waited for their loved ones to take the oath of citizenship and be sworn in as Americans.

From right, Ram Ranga, 29, of Farmington, Surendra Kulkarni and Vandana Kulkarni, both of Bloomfield Hills, all originally from India, stand during the oath of allegiance.

Surendra and Vandana Kulkarni of Bloomfield Hills were among those who were naturalized. 

The couple said they applied last year for U.S. citizenship after being in the United States for three decades. The Kulkarnis, who are from India, said they felt it was time.

They were joined at Monday's ceremony by their 22-year-old daughter, Isha.

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith was the keynote speaker at the event and administered the Oath of Allegiance to the new citizens.

Goldsmith has issued rulings regarding detained Iraqi nationals who have been fighting deportation, giving them a victory in June when he ruled the detainees can be granted individual bond hearings and possibly be freed while their court cases continue.

Last year, Goldsmith issued a preliminary injunction that halted the deportation of hundreds of Iraqi nationals who had final orders of removal from the U.S. after they were rounded up by ICE agents in June 2016. 

Goldsmith said that "without immigrants, America would never have matured into the economic, cultural and political and superpower that she has become." He mentioned famous immigrants who helped shape the nation with their contributions, including Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Carnegie, Albert Einstein and the singer Rihanna.

The judge told the new citizens that three of his grandparents were immigrants,  European Jews who fled "inhospitable" countries more than a century ago in search of a better life and the chance to practice their religion freely.

"When I look into your eyes, I do as the grandson of immigrants and I see my grandparents' eyes in yours ... filled with hope for a better tomorrow and eagerness to make a lasting contribution to our country," Goldsmith said.

He urged them to protect the ideals of the country by being involved in their communities, getting educated about issues and participating in elections.

"On Election Day make sure you exercise your most sacred right to vote," said Goldsmith. 

Daniel Broughton, the section chief for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, encouraged the new citizens to "pass on your heritage" and told them their new status comes with many responsibilities.

"Register to vote, to vote in upcoming elections so that your voice may be heard," he said.