Immigration up close and personal: Celebrating the new citizen across the hall

One by one, the judge listed the 51 countries represented by the 121 people about to become new American citizens at the John J. Moakley Federal Courthouse.

“If you’re from Bangladesh you’ll be standing a bit longer,” U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Frank J. Bailey cautioned as he began his alphabetic roll call last Thursday. “If you’re from Vietnam, you’ll just be standing for a second.”

Photo by Elianna Nuzum

“Barbados, Belize, Brazil…” he continued, pausing for the applause greeting the women and men standing at the announcement of their homeland, some waving a small American flag provided by the court.

“Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti,” the judge went on, pausing to add the HAI-EE-TEE pronunciation preferred by some. The gesture struck a respectful chord, a simple acknowledgement that the world doesn’t always see — or say — everything the way Americans do.

I was awaiting mention of a country just a few down the list from Haiti, and clapped extra loud when our son-in-law, Marton, stood as the judge announced: “Hungary.” Guided by Project Citizenship, Marton completed a citizenship process given urgency both by the current political climate and his desire to vote. Continue reading