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Rockland Welcomes 152 New U.S. Citizens

Acting Supreme Court Justice Victor J. Alfieri, Jr. presided over the swearing in of 152 new United States citizens at a naturalization ceremony Friday at the Fire Training Center in Pomona.

He wrapped up the ceremony by asking the the assembled citizens and their families, local officials and veterans to act as one large cheering section, applauding as he called out the number of new citizens from each of the 38 countries represented. The largest group was 33 from Haiti, followed by 16 from India, 15 from the Dominican Republic and 14 from the Phillippines.  

Rockland County Clerk Paul Piperato administered the Oath of Allegiance. 

"Since being in office, I've done this for well over 9,000 new citizens and each time it gets better and better and each time I enjoy it more and more," Piperato said. "I like to remind each of you, America is a melting pot. It is a place they can come to live in freedom. I strongly advise you, don’t leave your culture at home. Bring it here. Intertwine with American culture."

Rockland County Legislator and Rockland County Executive Elect Ed Day served as keynote speaker Friday. He spoke about the importance of the naturalization ceremony.

"This wonderful ceremony is a core part of our national heritage, a foundation of this country that so prides itself as a nation of immigrants an a beacon to this entire world.

"I want to thank you for giving us an invaluable gift that you have given all of us today. You have given us yourselves, and with that you have given us your loyalty and your faith. You have sworn allegiance to this great country of ours. You have given us the gift of reminding us just how special it is to be an American. Many who receive this gift of citizenship through birth, like myself, need that reminder more than most will admit. Today, it is through your eyes, we are reminded just how special your gift to us truly is."

Many speakers gave the new citizens advice. Michael Pendergast and Roxanne Watson of the New York Organ Donor Network spoke to them about registering as donors. Linda Berns of the League of Women Voters spoke to them about the importance of voting, citing the still undecided local election for Orangetown Supervisor. Alfieri, who is presiding over court proceedings related to that election, smiled and said he can't talk about it.

Marvin Joachim of the Jewish War Veterans offered a prayer. Musician, composer and actor Michael Mark of Valley Cottage sang "The Star Spangled Banner," "America the Beautiful," and a song written by Tom Chapin and John Forster, "Family Tree."

That helped inspire the reaction of Hagit Dahan, a native of Israel who became a U.S. citizen Friday. She came came to the United States with her husband, Yosi, 15 years ago and they have four children, all born in America. She called the experience amazing and talked about becoming part of a new family, that becoming a citizen made her a "more real" part of her adopted country. 

To see video from Friday's ceremony, click here

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