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Clinton Township — Marcia Scherer beamed as she waved her miniature flag, exclaiming that she was now an American citizen.

"I am so proud to be an American. I am feeling free," said Scherer, a native of Brazil who lives in Rochester Hills. "I am so happy. It is a day of celebration."

Scherer was one of 41 new American citizens sworn in Friday by U.S. District Judge Gershwin A. Drain during a naturalization ceremony at the administrative campus of the Macomb Intermediate School District.

Also in attending were U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and Michael DeVault, Macomb Intermediate School District superintendent.

The ceremony was a learning experience for students from Macomb County schools, including the Center Line, L'Anse Creuse and Utica districts; Arts Academy in the Woods and Clinton Township's Neil E. Reid High School.

Students are studying citizenship and what it means to be an American citizen.

Diana Gejou, one of 17 new citizens from Iraq, was there with her 3-year-old daughter, Marcella, who looked fashionable in glittery pink Hello Kitty boots as she waved four American flags.

"I am proud," Gejou said of becoming a citizen.

Gejou, 29, who lives in Sterling Heights, said the road to citizenship took her five years.

Metro Detroit is seeing an increase in immigration because of turmoil in the Middle East.

Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and continuing with the rise of the militant Islamic State group, more than two-thirds (800,000) of Iraq's Christians have fled due to religious persecution and are displaced as refugees all over the world.

With more than 400 Iraqi refugees, mainly Chaldeans, arriving each month, the Chaldean Community Foundation faces a growing demand for its services. It recently started construction on a $3 million Chaldean community center in Sterling Heights, one of the first cities where many immigrants arrive in Metro Detroit.

Since 2007, more than 30,000 of these refugees have entered Michigan seeking citizenship, said Martin Manna, president of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce in Southfield.

UWatson@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2613

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