Immigrants take the oath.Sana Hersi became an American citizen today. The 28-year-old fled war-torn Somalia in 2000, and it has been a long journey for the young mother from Mogadishu to Minneapolis. “It feels good,” she beamed. Hersi was among 208 people from 53 countries who took the oath of allegiance at the Landmark Center in St Paul, proudly standing as the Star-Spangled Banner resonated in the jam-packed hall. Magistrate Judge Jeanne Graham of the United States District Court in Minnesota led the naturalisation service, swearing in the immigrants as they reached the pinnacle of their American dream.
Sana Hersi with her son Kafi.But for many of the newly-minted citizens, this is the beginning of a whole new adventure. Muhammad Ammar Akhtar, 24, came to the US from Pakistan in 1998 with his parents. Clutching his naturalisation certificate and a US flag, he could hardly control his excitement. Akhtar was supposed to leave for university today, but delayed his departure by a day to attend the ceremony. “I can now vote and seek federal jobs,” he said, adding he wanted to travel around the world, something his Pakistani passport made difficult.
Muhammad Ammar Akhtar is all smiles.Hersi too wants to travel, but first to Somalia to look for her family. “I came here to get freedom,” said the statuesque hijab-clad former refugee, striking a confident pose as her 5-year-old son Kafi - American by birth - milled about. Others gathered near an Old Glory to record for posterity scenes of joy and celebration. This is a day they will never forget.
A father proudly poses with his family near the US flag with his certificate.