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New U.S. citizens sworn in at home of America’s pastime in Reading

As they watched 11 new U.S. citizens swear the oath of allegiance, the crowd reacted like they’d seen a grand slam.

“You now share the same rights, the same privileges and the same obligations as any citizen of this great country,” U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl announced with zeal, and a chorus of cheers rang through the stadium stands.

Relief, excitement and a bit of nerves — for Hjilary Estrella that cocktail of emotion was amplified as fireworks crackled and applause echoed.

Estrella and 10 other new citizens made up the first group to have their naturalization ceremony on the field of the FirstEnergy Stadium.

“I feel good, I feel great, I feel comfortable,” Estrella said. “It’s a long process. I needed to study, I was nervous when I took the test, but I passed.”

The ceremony was held Tuesday by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Schmehl said naturalization ceremonies had been put on before at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia but never at the home of the Fightin Phils.

“I bring the federal judges out here every year,” said Schmehl, a Reading native who previously served as a Berks County Court judge. “We’ve been talking about trying to do something like this because we think it’s important to promote it.”

Those plans finally came through this year, Schmehl said.

“People thought it would be nice, because baseball is the (American) pastime, to do a citizenship (ceremony here),” Schmehl said. “Then after you’ve been sworn in as a new citizen, to be able to do the pledge of allegiance, and sing the national anthem.”

He said the citizens sworn in this round are from Spain, Sierra Leone and the Dominican Republic.

Estrella said she came to the U.S. from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic in 2016 to be with her father and grandmother, and study to become a nurse.

The desire to reunite with family was a major motivator for Suleiky Suriel as well.

“My mom was here, I just wanted to be with her, and study (in America),” Suriel said.

She graduated with a degree in medical assistance in 2019 and works as a pharmacy technician.

Like Estrella, Suriel of Reading had spent a long time building a life in America before becoming a citizen, with her mother, father, boyfriend and daughter all living close by.

“My daughter was born here,” Suriel said. “I really love it (here.) I can say that I’ve grown (up) here, since I came when I was like 13.”

Diandra Torres, also from the Dominican Republic, said she came here to chase her dream of opening a salon.

Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl administers the Oath of Allegiance to Warling Santos, left, and Diandra Torres along with nine other new citizens Tuesday during a pre-game ceremony at FirstEnergy Stadium. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl administers the Oath of Allegiance to Warling Santos, left, and Diandra Torres along with nine other new citizens Tuesday during a pregame ceremony at FirstEnergy Stadium. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

“I want to keep working, buy my house and get my beauty salon up and running,” Torres said. “That’s my goal.”

Schmehl noted that those seeking naturalization must live in the U.S. for five years before being able to apply.

“I think it’s a huge thing in their lives,” Schmehl said. “They’ve waited a long time to become American citizens. This is the day they finally become American citizens, so it’s a lot of joy for them and their relatives.”

Suriel said she felt an indescribable sense of accomplishment after finally achieving citizenship.

“You feel amazing, there’s no words that can describe it,” Suriel said.

Schmehl said officials would likely try to hold more naturalization ceremonies at locations like the stadium.

“Civics, citizenship and public awareness, we want to try to let people know more…especially in today’s day and age,” Schmehl said.

New citizens listen to the national anthem Tuesday during a pre-game ceremony at FirstEnergy Stadium. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
New citizens listen to the national anthem Tuesday during a pregame ceremony at FirstEnergy Stadium. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)


Source: Berkshire mont

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