ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – Tompkins County held a naturalization ceremony for 34 people from 16 countries in a ceremony on Wednesday afternoon.
Dozens of people packed the Tompkins County Courtroom. Many were waiting to become U.S. citizens. The crowd chatted excitedly until the judge entered. The courtroom went silent and all stood up.
Everyone faced the flag and recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and then the ceremony began. It was a moment some have been working toward for a long time.
Mansoor Khan Mahmood sat in the front row with his wife and parents. He is from Pakistan. A few rows behind them are friends, his three young children and more family members.
He and his wife have lived in Elmira for over ten years. They have three children.
Mahmood said becoming a U.S. citizen was an easy decision. As he talked about his reasons, his already big smile widened.
“Freedom,” he said. “I can vote and do all the stuff a citizen can do. No more restriction.”
The occasion brought tears to his mother and sister’s eyes. Mahmood, his parents and four siblings came to the U.S. almost two decades ago. His mother said they wanted to give the children better opportunities than they could have in Pakistan.
The right to vote in the 2020 elections was also a motivation. Chisela Ng’oma, 21, came with her family from Zambia when she was nine years old. Her father became a citizen a couple of years ago.
She got her citizenship on Wednesday. Her motivation was clear.
“I’d like to vote in the next election,” she said. “I’ve been living here for so long it’s already felt like I’ve been a citizen in a way, but I haven’t been able to use my civic power yet. So, to be able to use that will be really nice.”
The next naturalization ceremony in Tompkins County is scheduled for November 6.