Our heartfelt congratulations to former Baltimore Orioles player and team hall of fame member Melvin Mora, a Harford County resident who last week became a naturalized United States citizen.
A hard-working man as a MLB player, who put down roots in our county some 16 years ago, Mora epitomizes the "America Dream" that all of us who were born in this country learn about very early in our lives.
Mora's story also debunks the too widely believed myth that immigration is somehow detrimental to the United States. It's not. If a person born outside our borders wants to live, work and raise a family in this country, he or she should have every right to do so, no strings attached other than to live by our laws and understand our values.
Notice we don't say become a citizen. Why? Simply because it's something that folks who, once they spend any time in the United States, will in most cases aspire to become.
In reporting on Mora's citizenship ceremony last week, the Baltimore Sun's Eduardo Encina pointed out that when he first established a residency in the Baltimore area, the Venezuelan native was considering becoming a naturalized citizen. He got a nudge from the five quintuplets born to him and his wife, Gisel, in Baltimore in 2004. As the children got older, they pushed their father to become a dual citizen, as he encouraged them to become dual citizens of Venezuela, Encina reported.
Mora, 45, was among 60 people from 31 countries who became naturalized U.S. citizens on May 10 at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Field Office in Baltimore. He came to the U.S. as a teenager to pursue his dream of becoming a big league player, and eventually played for the Orioles for nine years, retiring in 2009.
According to Encina's report on the ceremony, last year nearly 20,000 people from Maryland became naturalized citizens at the Baltimore Field Office. Nearly 10,000 have been naturalized this year.
The naturalization process isn't perfunctory. In addition to being required to live in the county for five years, candidates have to been screened, become proficient in English and demonstrate a knowledge of U.S. history and government.
Most importantly, they have to want to be part of their adopted homeland. "This is very special for me and my family," Mora was quoted following this citizenship ceremony.
That's what the American dream is all about.