Immigrants reflect on their journeys to citizenship

Maite Yoselin Hall (center) became a citizen last Tuesday.

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

For Maite Yoselin Hall taking the citizenship oath was a relief.

Now she’s a citizen of this country. She’s no longer subject to possible changes in regulations that would separate her from her husband. It’s easier to visit her mother in Venezuela. And she can plan to bring her mother to the United States.

New citizens take oath of loyalty to United States.

Hall was one of 48 people, from 26 countries, who became U.S. citizens Tuesday at the Naturalization Ceremony held in the Grand Ballroom of Bowling Green State University. United States District Court Judge James R. Knepp presided.

Hall works as the coordinator of international students at BGSU.

When she raised her hand to take the oath, she was flanked by new American citizens who’d immigrated from Thailand, Romania, Mexico, India, Jordan, Cuba, Egypt, and Iraq.

In the row in front of her stood her parents, Alcira and Franklin Barrios. Hall said it was happenstance that they took the oath of citizenship at the same ceremony. They’d gone through the process separately.

Hall first arrived in the United States as a teenager when her father took a managerial job at Owens-Illinois in Perrysburg. He’d worked as a manager for O-I in their native Venezuela. Her mother, Hall said, had encouraged her to come to the United States with her father and has encouraged her to stay. 

The family lived in Toledo, and Hall went to Springfield schools. Those early years were difficult, she said in an interview. She didn’t speak any English. “I have to say those are days I do not wish to go back to. I guess they got me here.”

She attended Owens Community College in business and transferred to Tiffin University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in business and a master’s degree in higher education administration.

It took her eight years to go through the naturalization process after getting her green card. Her husband, Rodcliffe Hall, is a naturalized citizen from Jamaica. He was her sponsor.

The process is not cheap. The application for citizenship is about $800, and the cost total about $5,000.

Her half-siblings are also going through the naturalization process.

Magdy AbouZied speaks at naturalization ceremony.

During Tuesday’s ceremony, Magdy AbouZied, associate director of BGSU Dining Services, reflected on his own journey to become an American citizen.

He came to the United  States from Egypt in 1988, knowing only one person, his cousin. He came, he said, to finish his education, launch a career, and “enjoy the freedom this country offers.”

Back in 1992, he was seated where these new citizens were. “I was very proud. What a wonderful day to celebrate.”

AbouZied went on to found his own business, and start a family. When his two sons got older he decided to sell his business to have more time to enjoy their academic and sports activities. 

He took a job with BGSU in 2006. One son is a BGSU graduate now pursuing his doctorate in chiropractics, and his other son is a sophomore in a pre-med track. 

“You have endless opportunities in this country,” AbouZied said, “as long as you participate and contribute to your community.” 

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