On Citizenship Day, U.S. Welcomes 36,000 New Americans

Thursday was both Citizenship Day and Constitution Day, which commemorates the signing of the United States Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787. Around the country, approximately 36,000 people were expected to become U.S. citizens, according to federal judge Colleen Brown, who presided over a Citizenship Day ceremony in Shelburne, Vermont.

"We look forward to having each of you share your gifts with us," Brown told a group of 24 new citizens who gathered for the ceremony on the dry-docked steamship Ticonderoga at Shelburne Museum.

Among the newly naturalized citizens in Shelburne was Ruba Alorfali, who is originally from Syria.

"I'm very proud," Alorfali said, smiling and waving a small American flag.

Alorfali is married and studying economics at St. Michael's College. As she heard speakers describing the U.S. as a place where diversity, religious differences, and a host of freedoms should be embraced, she said her mind drifted to her birthplace.

Much of Syria has been gripped by civil war and militant fighting. The conflict in Syria has killed more than 250,000 people since it began in March 2011, according to U.N. figures. With a staggering death toll, millions have fled the country, fueling a migrant crisis. Millions more live in fear.

"I hope for peace all across the globe," Alorfali told necn. "And I hope the situation there can end peacefully in a way that all lives can be saved."

Alorfali said her grandparents are still in Syria, though her immediate family emigrated to Toronto, Canada more than 10 years ago. She said her grandparents were overjoyed to hear of the Citizenship Day ceremony and were eager to receive photos of the event.

"They, unfortunately, do get used to the war," Alorfali said. "It's unfortunate what is going on there, and I do keep everyone there in my thoughts on a daily basis. It's definitely difficult."

The message at the Citizenship Day ceremony in Shelburne was one of welcoming; it came with a request from speakers to the new citizens to incorporate their traditions into their new communities.

Ruba Alorfali said she'll cherish the liberties that come with being an American. "I'm very happy," she beamed.

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