On Independence Day in Annapolis, 30 people from 22 countries officially become Americans

E.B. Furgurson III
Contact Reporterpfurgurson@capgaznews.com

After an early morning Independence Day naturalization ceremony at William Paca House in Annapolis, 30 people from across the globe no longer yearn to breathe free.

They came from 22 countries — from Kenya to China, Bolivia to Nepal — to find a new home in Maryland.

Now they are all Americans.

Ahyauddin Ahmad’s journey to the Annapolis ceremony on Wednesday began 18 years ago when he arrived in the United States from his home in Pakistan. Today, Ahmad lives in Potomac and is serving in the U.S. Army.

“Now I have become a citizen,” said Ahmad, moments after taking the oath of citizenship. “I am thankful for this country to give me an opportunity.

“The most important thing is to be able to express freedom where some other places in the world you are not allowed to,” he added. “And I am serving my country, I hope I will be good at it.”

Ahmad was joined in the ceremony by Maria Paez, who emigrated from Colombia to the United States nearly six years ago. Paez lives in Rockville and works as an active duty U.S. Army nurse’s assistant at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.

“I am so happy,” she said.

Glenn Campbell, chief historian at Historic Annapolis, said this is the 13th year for hosting the naturalization ceremony on the 4th of July.

“We think it appropriate to host this ceremony in the shadow of Mr. Paca’s house, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence,” Campbell said. “He helped create the country when he agreed to the declaration.”

Mr. Paca was portrayed at the ceremony by Matthew West, who greeted the citizenship candidates seated under a tent blocking them from the hot morning sun, which overwhelmed one of the four junior ROTC cadets from Annapolis High School and diminished the color guard to a trio.

West read the Declaration of Independence, signed 242 years ago, before the color guard presented the flag. Then the All Children’s Chorus of Annapolis led the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Robert Clark, president and CEO of Historic Annapolis, greeted the anxious citizens-to-be and congratulated them for “the bold, brave step you are about to take on your American journey.”

And with that, Greg Collett, director of the Baltimore district of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, took the podium to administer the oath.

But before reciting the pledge along with the candidates he instructed each to stand, calling them out by country to add a dramatic punctuation to the event.

“Bolivia, Cameroon, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Denmark,” Collett said “Greece, Kenya, Nepal, Niger.”

He said afterwards he has sworn in new citizens “hundreds, if not thousands of times.”

“We swear in about 20,000 a year out of Baltimore,” Collett said. “That includes two or three a day at our office” plus the larger ceremonies like the Paca House affair on Wednesday.

Annapolis Town Crier Squire Frederick Taylor, who opened the ceremony also closed with this thought for the fresh Americans: “Go forth in peace and confidence. Good luck and godspeed.”

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