Ghanaian, Boukinabe, Ivorien among immigrants sworn in as newest U.S. citizens at Berkshire, Massachusetts

  • By Heather Bellow | The Berkshire Eagle

Their faces as hopeful as the sun and the shimmering Berkshire hills behind them, a dozen new Americans took the oath that means they now belong. At a coronavirus pandemic-adjusted naturalization ceremony in the Chinese garden at Naumkeag on Wednesday, 12 people from nine countries became U.S. citizens.

“It is the most meaningful and joyful part of my job,” said a beaming U.S. Judge Magistrate Katherine Robertson, nodding to all the political divisiveness around immigration. “This country would not be what it is without you.”

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Robertson implored them to hold sacred and be governed by the American way of “fairness, tolerance, compassion, equality and freedom.” And she urged them to vote, noting that they still have time for the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

The ceremony for those who reside in Western Massachusetts or the Berkshires typically is held at the Norman Rockwell Museum and is packed full of families. Wary of the virus, the state’s Lawrence-based U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services instead partnered with Naumkeag overseer The Trustees of Reservations, as well as the Berkshire Immigrant Center, to hold a small outdoor event.

Afterward, the new citizens had refreshments and walked the gardens with one or two family members.

For some, it was school that brought them to America.

Biano Daniel Thiombiano, 31, came from Ghana for graduate studies in public policy and administration at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He now teaches environmental science at Holyoke High School.

For others, it was a person.

“I fell in love,” said Lorena Dus, 32, originally from Venezuela. She met her husband in Ireland, and the couple now live in West Stockbridge, where he is from.

Dus is a senior caseworker with the Berkshire Immigrant Center, helping others navigate the naturalization maze. Despite her familiarity, “even I was nervous at my interview,” she said.

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It also was love for Yair Cabrera, 29, of Mexico. He held his 1-year-old daughter, Luana, who waved a small American flag, and said he had met his wife, Victoria Cabrera, on a layover in Atlanta. The couple live in Huntington.

For another, it was love and motherhood.

Marie Helene Yameogo, 30, originally from Burkina Faso, met her husband in Ivory Coast. They kept in touch as friends for years, until that spark intervened.

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He was living in Pittsfield and she moved to be with him. She now works as an aide at Berkshire County Arc.

Yameogo’s husband brought the couple’s two young girls to see her as she left the ceremony. Bedecked in hair bows and pink dresses, they came running.

“I want to be here to support my kids,” Yameogo said, noting the fear of potential separation that, she says, is stirred by politics.

“It should be about human beings and how we accept each other,” she said of all immigrants. “We have to support and help them.”

Read from source The Berkshire Eagle