FAIRFIELD — Cheers and applause filled the Becker-Balmer meeting room in the Fairfield Civic Center library Saturday afternoon.
About 100 people packed the space to watch 43 local immigrants, representing 11 nations, become American citizens.
Vinod Muniswamy was one of them.
He came to the United States almost 17 years ago in “pursuit of knowledge.” He went to college and has lived in Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania before settling in Fairfield.
The idea of becoming a citizen became a priority after the birth of his first child, a son, 19 months ago.
“He’ll grow up here,” Muniswamy said.
Becoming an American citizen is one way he can repay what this country has given him, he said. “I am pleased and privileged to be an American by choice.”
Devraj Ghosh came to the United States in 1999 from India to attend college. He lived in Chicago and Indiana prior to moving to Fairfield.
“I feel America is a fair country,” he said. “You work hard and you get the results you need.”
Becoming a citizen gave him a sense of accomplishment, he said.
Ghosh believes immigrants should follow the path to citizenship as set forth by the law.
“There were other ways to do this,” he said. “I could have taken a shortcut. I feel it should be done the way the law says.”
His wife Sneha Ghosh, who became a United States citizen while living in Chicago, said she was very proud and happy for her husband.
She was impressed with the ceremony that included remarks from Harry Price, Fairfield’s mayor, and the presence of a Boy Scout honor guard.
“This was beautiful,” she said. Her ceremony was in front of a judge, done in roll-call fashion, she said.
In his keynote address to the new citizens, Price encouraged them to share their native tongue and customs with future generations.
His ancestors, he said, came from Germany, Wales, Scotland and Holland.
“My grandparents did not want us to learn their native language,” he said. “I’ve been handicapped all my 77 years (not speaking a second language). Share your first language with your children.”
It was the first time such an event has been held in the city of Fairfield, said Sharon Rummery, a public affairs officer with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Bringing the ceremony to Fairfield saved the new citizens a trip to and from Sacramento, where the ceremonies are held on a regular basis.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.