Sixty-five new Americans from around the globe took the oath of allegiance to the United States Friday, at a naturalization ceremony inside the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier. The ceremony has been held on each 9/11 since the attacks of 2001, and is overseen by U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions III.
"I'm so happy," beamed Maysa Alkhatib, a new American citizen who is originally from Jordan. "I’m glad, and I'm proud of myself!"
Alkatib and her husband, Nedal Abdallah, said they spent 10 years working to move here; another five pursuing citizenship. Abdallah said he is working a job he likes as a forklift operator, and that he and his wife enjoy raising their three kids in Brattleboro.
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"It's a dream for us," Abdallah said.
However, the couple is well aware of the nightmare many migrants are facing as they flee bombings and other violence in Syria. Families leaving the country are embarking on risky journeys, trying to find safety and a better life. Alkatib and Abdallah's homeland of Jordan is now housing many refugees.
"They have suffered," Abdallah said of the Syrian refugees now living in Jordan and elsewhere. "They saw many things. No one can describe what they saw; what they lived."
"And I hope a good life for them," Alkatib added. "I feel so bad about them."
Thursday, President Obama said the United States intends to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees starting in the budget year beginning October 1. But with millions having fled that war-torn nation, and millions more displaced inside Syria, many Republicans have been critical of the White House, believing it is not doing enough.
"Judges don't get involved in political questions," Judge Sessions said. "But I do want to say that I really reflect at all of these ceremonies on American citizenship; about the real benefit to this country of opening our doors to people from all over the world. And to see people who are so thrilled to become American citizens is just a real pleasure for me."
As for Alkatib and Abdallah, they said they hope to be back at ceremonies like Friday's in the future, to see their children become American citizens, too.